Eni’s Italy MTBE plant to grow capacity 50% in August

Source: ICIS News

2016/07/05

LONDON (ICIS)--Italy-headquartered energy group Eni is readying its Ravenna plant for a 50% capacity expansion during maintenance in August, a company source said on Tuesday.

The Ravenna site on the Adriatic coast, between Venice and San Marino, can produce either methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) or ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) and is currently geared to make the former.

Ravenna has a capacity of 140,000 tonnes, according to the ICIS Plants and Projects database, and so a 50% increase would lift this to around 210,000 tonnes.

Lasting for two and a half months, the expansion will allow the plant to more fully cater to Eni’s northern Italian refineries’ needs.

It is understood these currently require extra MTBE to be bought, beyond Ravenna’s current output.

Ravenna, Italy. Map data ©2016 Google

Whether the plant will be run at full level once the expansion is complete will depend on the availability of the feedstock for MTBE, Raffinate-1, which is still uncertain, suggested the source.

This is a reference to a possible tightening availability of C4 streams thanks to a potential switch in the production process upstream which has previously taken place during the summer.

There has typically been a swap away from using naphtha cracking, and instead cracking the heating fuel liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which is often cheaper during summer months because it is in less demand. This produces less crude C4, which is where Raffinate-1 comes from.

Availability of Raffinate-1 would therefore typically be down during the summer, as suggested by another MTBE seller in the past week.

However this seasonal swing is believed to have smoothed out in recent years, with crackers finding LPG to have consistently provided better margins throughout the whole of the year.

Additional reporting by Nel Weddle