CORRECTED: NOVA continues to mull new Geismar PE plant in US

Source: ICIS News

2019/03/21

Correction: The ICIS story headlined “NOVA to make FID on Geismar PE plant in US by end of '19” dated 21 March 2019 was based on incorrect information. The headline and first paragraph were changed to remove reference to a final investment decision being made by the end of 2019. The company continues to evaluate the plant and technology options. A corrected story follows.

SAN ANTONIO (ICIS)--NOVA Chemicals continues to evaluate a new polyethylene (PE) plant in Geismar, Louisiana, while considering the options for the process technology, an executive at the Canada-headquartered chemicals producer said.

NOVA would build the plant at its Louisiana site, where it has a cracker that it acquired from Williams in 2017. The cracker has a capacity of 885,000 tonnes/year and currently sells all of its output on the merchant market.

If NOVA does choose to build the PE plant, then operations could start in mid-2024, said Naushad Jamani, senior vice president, olefins and feedstock at NOVA Chemicals.

The company is still considering which technology it will use for the plant, he said, but it is leaning towards the Advanced SCLAIRtech (AST) technology that it used for its new linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) plant in Joffre, in Canada's Alberta province.

The same technology is being used in the new LLDPE plant that NOVA is building in Sarnia, Ontario province.

If NOVA decides to move forward on the project and if it chooses the AST technology, then Geismar would function as the third leg of a geographic stool, giving NOVA a presence on the western, eastern and southern parts of the North American continent.

While NOVA is biased towards AST, that is not the company's only option, Jamani said.

NOVA may also choose Dow Chemical's Unipol gas-phase technology, which it uses at some of its other plants, Jamani said.

Another option is to use the third-generation Borstar technology of Borealis, he said.

NOVA and Borealis are connected via Mubadala, an investment company based in Abu Dhabi that owns all of NOVA and 64% of Borealis. Austria's energy major OMV owns the remaining stake.

Moreover, the Borstar technology will be used in a new high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant that NOVA and Borealis are building in Bayport, Texas, with France's energy major Total.

All three are partners in the Bayport Polymers (Baystar) joint venture.

The third-generation Borstar technology is multi-modal, allowing it to produce PE that incorporates the best features of different grades.

NOVA had always intended on adding on to the Geismar cracker, Jamani said. At one point, the company had briefly considered a possible ethylene terminal.

NOVA abandoned those plans once it became clear that Enterprise was pursuing its ow ethylene terminal on the Gulf Coast, Jamani said.

Enterprise Products Partners and Navigator Holdings expect to start operations at the terminal in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Until NOVA can find another outlet for the ethylene coming out of the Geismar cracker, it will continue to be exposed to the ups and downs of ethane and ehtylene prices.

Ethane prices have risen because of rising demand and limits on how much of the feedstock can be brought to petrochemical markets.

Meanwhile, ethylene prices have fallen because of the startup of new crackers and delays to the startup of new downstream plants.

NOVA knew it would be exposed to this volatility when it bought the Geismar cracker, Jamani said.

The acquisition was intended to be a long-term investment that was predicated on a downstream project, Jamani said.

That said, the new terminal should provide the ethylene market with another outlet for excess supply, he said.

Jamani was speaking on the sidelines of the World Petrochemicals Conference (WPC) organised by IHS Markit in San Antonio, Texas, which runs through Friday.

Picture source: NOVA Chemicals

Interview article by Al Greenwood