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Thai Start-ups: What A Muddle

Environment, Olefins, Polyolefins, Sustainability, Thailand, US
By John Richardson on 08-Dec-2009


A real head scratcher……

Headsrcatching.jpgSource of picture: www/http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com



By John Richardson

Confused? Sorry, but so far we cannot be of much help bringing any precision to what the implications of Thailand’s Supreme Court ruling will mean for the timing of petrochemical start-ups.

If you remember, last Friday we wrote about how the Supreme Court had backed the verdict of a lower court which had halted development of $12bn of petrochemical and power projects at the Map Ta Phut site (or should it be Mab Ta Phut?).

Note the word could because, despite the court ruling supporting claims by environmentalists about the impact of pollution at the site, PTT claimed that most of its 25 petrochemicals projects would be unaffected by the verdict.

The reason it gave was that the projects were granted environmental clearance before 2007 – when constitutional changes altered health and environmental rules.

Media reports said that former prime minister Anand Panyarachun would review the court ruling and make recommendations in the first quarter of next year.

That seemed clear as watered-down mud can be.

But then later the same day – last Friday again – PTT provided us with a list of 65 projects formally under suspension.

These include more projects than we had earlier listed – for example, bisphenol-A (BPA),  and polycarbonate (PC) expansions by PTT and Bayer respectively and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) expansions by Thai Plastic and Chemicals.

What remained unanswered was whether progress on the Siam Cement/Dow Chemical complex had been halted.

The complex includes 900,000 tonne/year of ethylene and 450,000 tonne/year of propylene (the cracker will also produce 200,000 tonne/year of benzene).

Also at the site will be a big new metathesis unit downstream of which will be a polypropylene (PP) unit (currently checking the capacity).

In addition, there will be a propylene oxide (PO) unit with a capacity of 390,000 tonne/year using Dow’s proprietary hydrogen peroxide route to PO. This will be the first plant of its kind in the world and will not produce any styrene co-product. Start-up of the cracker, metathesis and PP units is due in Q2 next year and the PO unit in 2011, says ICIS Plants & Projects.

So we asked Dow to put the record straight.

Sadly, this was their statement today: “We are currently assessing the impact of the Court’s decision. We are in full compliance with existing regulatory requirements and remain highly committed to ensuring that all of our projects fully comply with government regulations.”

Perhaps nobody knows, in which case I am sure everyone would welcome a great deal more clarity.