By Joseph Chang
NEW YORK (ICIS)--BASF’s planned methane-to-propylene plant is targeted for start-up in 2019, although it is still being evaluated, a senior executive said on Friday.
While Germany-based BASF did not disclose capacity for the plant to be built on the US Gulf coast, it would be world-scale and could cover its propylene needs in North America.
“The exact capacity is part of the evaluation process. World-scale means that the plant will have a capacity of several 100 tonnes per annum,” said Beate Ehle, president, Market and Business Development for BASF, in an interview with ICIS.
“We aim to be able to cover our internal demand for propylene in North America,” she added.
BASF said that the proposed on-purpose propylene project would be its “largest single-plant investment to date”.
The company is aiming to take advantage of long-term low natural gas prices due to US shale gas production to considerably improve its cost position, Ehle noted.
“BASF intends to further strengthen its backward integration and grow its propylene-based downstream activities, leading to a stronger position in North America,” said Ehle.
“Due to abundant shale gas reserves in the US, natural gas will be price advantaged vis-a-vis other feedstock for the production of propylene, which would give the plant a strong cash cost position,” she added.
The project could have implications for BASF’s 60:40 joint venture cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, with France-based Total.
BASF Total Petrochemicals recently increased the feedstock flexibility at the cracker to use more natural gas liquids (NGLs) ethane and propane rather than naphtha. But that in turn has reduced its output of propylene.
“The advantage of lighter feedstocks comes at a price, as these feedstocks result in a lower production of higher olefins," Ehle said. "That’s why we are looking into on-purpose production of propylene in order to balance BASF’s supply/demand position in North America."
Ehle would not disclose details on the methane-to-propylene technology.
However, several methanol-to-olefins (MTO) processes exist, and these could provide a route to propylene via methane.
Regardless of the technology BASF chooses for its plant, it would enter an increasingly crowded field for on-purpose propylene production in North America.
Several companies have proposed on-purpose propylene plants that would use propane as a feedstock.
The following lists the announcements for these propane dehydrogenation (PDH) units.
Start-up Dow Chemical
Q2 2015 Ascend Performance Materials
Q4 2015 Formosa Plastics
2016 Enterprise Products
Q1 2016 Williams
Q2 2016 REXtac
mid 2016 Dow Chemical
NA Enterprise Products
NA Source: Companies, ICIS
Additional reporting by Al Greenwood