Austria's Borealis considers adding 450,000 tonnes/year of PP in Europe debottlenecking drive

Source: ICIS News

2017/11/06

LONDON (ICIS)--Borealis is considering a series of polypropylene (PP) capacity expansions in Europe to capitalise on increased feedstock supplies if it goes ahead with a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant in the region, the Austria-headquartered petrochemicals producer said on Monday.

The company is considering adding 300,000-450,000 tonnes/year of capacity through debottlenecking operations at its three plants in Belgium, close to the 740,000 tonne/year PDH plant it is considering in Kallo, according to a company spokesperson.

One of the Borealis’ three Belgian PP units is also located in Kallo, with the others based in Beringen, about 80 kilometres away.

A feasibility study will be carried out over nine months, with a decision expected in the fourth quarter of 2018, a few months after a final investment decision is reached on the PDH unit. The final scale of the capacity expansion will be determined by the study.

If Borealis decides to go ahead with the unit and the debottlenecking investments, the first capacity increase would be expected to come on stream by the first quarter of 2020, and the work to be completed by early 2022, the company added.

Speaking to ICIS late last week, Borealis CFO Mark Tonkens stated that the vast majority of product from the PDH unit would likely be earmarked for captive use, if the project goes ahead, to reduce reliance on external sources of propylene feedstocks.

“We have a strong polypropylene position in Europe, we are not fully integrated propylene to PP. With this investment we can further increase our integration and become independent from third-party propylene supplies,” he said.

The company has commissioned front-end engineering and design (FEED) work on the project after completion of the pre-FEED phase earlier this year, and is expected to decide on whether to proceed with the project by the third quarter of 2018.

“The synergies with the envisaged PDH [unit] in Kallo, will ensure a reliable and integrated value chain from feedstock to customers,” said Alfred Stern, Borealis’ executive vice president for polyolefins.

PP supply is being outpaced by demand in Europe, Borealis said, driven by the sector and increasing usage in the automotive sector as companies move to produce lighter-weight, lower-emission vehicles.

“Europe polypropylene supply is not keeping up with increasing demand. With the market tightening and the continuous application expansion for PP materials, additional investment is needed to ensure a reliable platform for continuous, long-term growth in polypropylene,” said Maria Ciliberti, vice president of marketing and new business development at the company.

Pictured: Borealis' headquarters in Vienna, Austria Source: Borealis