OUTLOOK '18: First wave of new US plants to continue in new year

28 December 2017 15:00 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US will continue starting up new petrochemical plants in 2018, after Hurricane Harvey kept some companies from beginning operations during the previous year.

The table below shows the plants that will start up in 2018:

Company Capacity Product Site Start-up
Chevron Phillips 1.5m Ethylene Cedar Bayou, Texas Q1 2018
ExxonMobil 1.5m Ethylene Baytown, Texas mid-2018
Sasol 1.5m Ethylene Lake Charles, Louisiana H2 2018
Sasol 470,000 LLDPE Lake Charles, Louisiana H2 2018
Sasol 420,000 LDPE Lake Charles, Louisiana H2 2018
Formosa Plastics 400,000 LDPE Point Comfort, Texas H2 2018
Formosa Plastics 400,000 HDPE Point Comfort, Texas H2 2018
Formosa Plastics 1.2m Ethylene Point Comfort, Texas Q4 2018

These plants represent a continuation of the wave of start-ups that began in 2017.

The table below shows the major plants that either started operations in 2017 or were expected to do so by the end of the year:

Company Capacity Product Site
Braskem NA UHMWPE La Porte, Texas
Chevron Phillips 500,000 Bimodal HDPE Old Ocean, Texas
Chevron Phillips 500,000 mLLDPE Old Ocean, Texas
DowDuPont 1.5m Ethylene Freeport, Texas
DowDuPont 400,000 Elite PE Freeport, Texas
DowDuPont 350,000 specialty LDPE Plaquemine, Louisiana
ExxonMobil 650,000 mLLDPE Mont Belvieu, Texas
ExxonMobil 650,000 LLDPE Mont Belvieu, Texas
NOVA Chemicals 454,000 LLDPE Joffre, Alberta
Occidental Chemical/Mexichem 544,000 Ethylene Ingleside, Texas
Sasol/INEOS 470,000 HDPE La Porte, Texas

The year 2017 was not just a time of plant start-ups. Companies also announced plans to build even more plants, which could extend the boom well into the next decade.

The wave of new plants being built in the US is based on low-cost feedstock made available by the advent of shale gas.

US energy producers late adapted the shale-gas technology to oil production, providing the chemical industry with even more supplies of low-cost ethane and other natural-gas liquids (NGLs).

Low oil prices interrupted the growth of this second source of NGLs. But prices have since recovered from their lows, and oil producers found ways to cut costs. Shale oil has once again became profitable, even as prices remain below their previous highs.

Not only did oil production recover in the US, it set new records, and NGL output also rose as a result. Midstream companies were once again building new natural-gas processing plants and NGL pipelines to handle all of the associated gas being produced by these new wells.

Once again, the US was enjoying rising supplies of feedstock. They responded by announcing new projects. For many of these announcements as well as for older ones, companies have yet to make final investment decisions (FIDs).

Regardless of where companies stand in the decision-making process, most of them are building either crackers or downstream polyethylene (PE) plants. But some companies are building plants that will make other products.

Enterprise Products is expected to soon start up its new propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas. It has a propylene capacity of 750,000 tonnes/year.

In 2017, LyondellBasell made a final investment decision to build a propylene oxide/tertiary butyl alcohol (PO/TBA) plant in Channelview, Texas. When completed in 2021, the plant will produce 470,000 tonnes/year of PO and 1m tonnes/year of TBA.

Braskem approved a new 450,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant in La Porte, Texas.

Shintech may build a new vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant and expand a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) unit in Louisiana.

Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G) was supposed to complete an integrated polyester plant that it was building in Corpus Christi, Texas. However, the company filed  for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, and it now plans to sell the unfinished project. The plant would have a capacity of 1.1m tonnes/year of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and 1.3m tonnes/year of purified terephthalate acid (PTA).

By Al Greenwood