Mitsubishi mulls Louisiana site for MMA-from-ethylene plant

Author: Adam Yanelli

2020/12/08

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Mitsubishi Chemical Corp (MCC) is studying the feasibility of building a methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant, using the company’s Alpha technology that produces the material from ethylene instead of acetone.

A final investment decision (FID) on the project, with estimated production capacity of 350,000 tonnes/year, is expected by mid-2022, Louisiana Economic Development said on Tuesday.

“The Geismar project would be the third and largest commercial application of MCC’s proprietary Alpha technology, which was first deployed in 2008,” said Hitoshi Sasaki, COO for Mitsubishi’s global methyl methacrylate business. “This technology and plant design are perfectly matched for the shale gas-based feedstock slate in the US and strengthens our global leadership in the MMA merchant market.”

The proposed complex would be built on a 67-acre (27 ha) greenfield site Mitsubishi acquired from synthetic rubber manufacturer Lion Elastomers. With a final investment decision, MCC would begin construction leading to initial operations as soon as 2025.

Mitsubishi is the parent of US MMA producer Lucite International, which announced in November it was shutting its plant in Beaumont, Texas.

US MMA supply is improving, although there are still pockets of snugness.

Demand is unseasonably strong, with the coatings sector up in November due to a strong housing and construction market.

While it is unclear how long this will last, December is also expected to be busier than usual.

Mitsubishi currently uses the Alpha technology at two other plants.

One is in Jurong, Singapore. The second is SAMAC – Saudi Methacrylates Co - a joint venture with Sabic.

Roehm also uses an ethylene-to-MMA technology, called LiMa (Leading in Methacrylates.)

The feedstock for older MMA plants is acetone, a co-product of phenol production.

Additional reporting by Tarun Raizada

Thumbnail image shows cubes made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Photo by Shutterstock