BP completes upgrade, new reactor at US PTA plant

Author: Zachary Moore


Source: BPFocus article by Zachary Moore

HOUSTON (ICIS)--BP inaugurated a new reactor at its Cooper River purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant near Charleston, South Carolina.

According to BP, the new reactor will reduce maintenance time, while a steam-capture project will allow it to recover steam generated by the plant for reuse in electricity generation.

This will reduce the plant’s electricity needs by as much as 40%, resulting in a reduction of around 109,000 tonnes/year of carbon emissions, the company said. The new unit is currently running better than expected and the start up of the new reactor has also allowed the company to boost PTA production at the site by around 10%.

Luis Sierra, CEO of Global Aromatics at BP, stated, “Following our new investments, our Cooper River facility is now among the most cost-competitive PTA production facilities in the world.”

Sierra added that with the significant improvements in energy consumption achieved with the new reactor at Cooper River, BP plans to roll out its trademarked low-carbon PTAir line of products in the US after launching the line in Europe in 2016. 

In addition to certified low-carbon PTAir, BP will also roll out PTAir Netural, which will use carbon offsets such as reforestation projects to help customers achieve zero-carbon targets.

According to Sierra, the Cooper River facility is the largest PTA plant in North America, with a production capacity of 1.4m tonnes/year. Feedstock paraxylene (PX) is largely secured by barge from BP’s Texas City, Texas, chemical plant. 

BP’s Texas City plant has a production capacity of 1.5m tonnes/year of PX and meta-xylene produced from mixed xylenes (MX) sourced from Gulf Coast refineries.

Sierra added, “We are committed to the US PTA industry, as evidenced by the significant new investments we have made here at Cooper River. Our Cooper River is well located, as around 70% of US polyester production is concentrated in the southeastern states within easy reach of our Cooper River plant.”

PTA is used as a feedstock for polyester fabrics as well as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic used in the manufacture of beverage bottles as well as number of other packaging applications.

US PTA is currently entering its high season as the summer months typically see an increase in demand for bottled beverages. Supply is sufficient in North America, while the upcoming start up of Mossi & Ghisolfi's (M&G) new 1.3m tonnes/year PTA plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, may lengthen US supply of the material. US PTA pricing is generally formula-based and tracks movements in upstream PX pricing.

Market sentiment suggests that PX and PTA prices may decline in June owing to softening in crude oil prices, which has helped depress prices for MX, the primary feedstock for PX. However, some sources indicated that they anticipate renewed upward movement in prices later in the summer months.

Image: The photo shows BP's new PTA reactor. Source: BP