ExxonMobil builds crude cracker in naphtha-reliant Asia

08 January 2014 03:30 Source:ICIS News

By Pearl Bantillo

ExxonMobil President Stephen Pryor SINGAPORE (ICIS)--ExxonMobil's expanded manufacturing site in Singapore is now in operation, including the world’s first facility that can directly crack crude, a company executive said on Wednesday.

"Crude is the primary feedstock we are using in the expansion right now," ExxonMobil Chemical president Stephen Pryor told ICIS.

As the upstream of naphtha, crude when cracked provides a whole range of new molecules that can be developed into new products, making it the "exact opposite of the ethane phenomenon, where you get a lot of ethylene but you don't get a lot else," he said.

"When you crack crude, you have the whole barrel so you actually produce a richer mix of valuable by-products that you can further upgrade," Pryor said.

"We are already looking at what additional derivatives you might want to produce," he said, citing "plans on using the C4 molecules for butyl, C5 molecules for adhesives".

He said that ExxonMobil used 40 proprietary technologies in the newly expanded Singapore Chemical Plant, the company’s largest petrochemical complex in the world.

The expansion includes the new 1m tonne/year steam cracker that can use crude as feedstock; two 650,000 tonne/year polyethylene units: a 500,000 tonne/year polypropylene unit; a 300,000 tonne/year specialty elastomers unit; a benzene extraction unit that can yield 340,000 tonnes/year of benzene.

It further includes a 125,000 tonne/year oxo-alcohol unit expansion, an 80,000 tonne/year paraxylene expansion, as well as a 220-megawatt power cogeneration unit.

With the expansion, ExxonMobil can now produce 2.5m tonnes of new derivative products, Pryor said.

The decision to build a crude cracker in Singapore was borne of Asia’s heavy reliance on expensive naphtha for petrochemical production.

"The primary competition is naphtha, so you're looking at what would have an advantage over the regional feeds. And so it was a logical fit for Singapore and an extension of our focus in heavy feed technology," Pryor said.

Operations at ExxonMobil's Singapore Chemical Plant are going "very well", he said.

Mechanical works at the crude cracker was completed in end-2012, and the unit was able to produce on-spec ethylene in May 2013, he said.

"If you think about it, you have eliminated the refining step to produce the naphtha, so there is an inherent energy efficiency and emissions efficiency, sustainability story around that," Pryor said.

"The crude cracker ... is part of a long evolution of our focus on feedstock and steam cracking as a core technology," the ExxonMobil executive said.

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

By Pearl Bantillo