Dow to expand ethylene capacity in Canada, Shells sells refinery to focus on chemicals, PTTG advances Ohio works

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Image shows one of the PTT Global Chemical's existing assets. The company is evaluating an FID for a new cracker and polymer plant in Ohio. Image courtesy of PTTGC.

Dow to expand ethylene capacity in Canada, Texas new furnaces to come online

Dow Chemical Co. announced on Jan. 29 plans to increase ethylene capacity in Western Canada through the addition of another furnace at an existing plant.

Dow also said that two new furnaces at its Texas 9 cracker will come online by mid-year.

“Today we are announcing plans to incrementally expand capacity at our ethylene facility in Western Canada by approximately 130,000 metric tons with the addition of another furnace,” company CEO Jim Fitterling said.

“Dow will co-invest in the expansion with a regional customer, evenly sharing the project costs and ethylene output,” he added.

“The additional ethylene will be consumed by existing polyethylene assets in the region, making the investment immediately accretive once it comes online in the first half of 2021,” he said.

The expansion at Fort Saskatchewan, just northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, already has regulator’s approval, according to the company.

Dow said 700 workers will be involved in the construction stage. The Canadian Press, a Canadian news agency, estimated the project cost at about C$200 million.

In addition, the company is advancing plans to expand its Texas 9 cracker just south of Houston.

“We expect the two new furnaces at our Texas 9 cracker to come online by the middle of second quarter 2020 with commissioning projected to start for the end of first quarter,” Fitterling said.

“This will bring the crackers capacity to 2 million metric tons making it the world's largest ethylene facility,” he said.

In addition, the Midland, Michigan-based company said it expects polyethylene margins to improve after hitting lows last year.

“We expect price increases to gain traction from the low point at the end of 2019. If they don't, we expect high-cost producers to come under pressure,” said Dow’s President and CFO Howard Ungerleider.

Shell sells California refinery as it shifts focus to chemicals

Shell Oil Products US (Shell), a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, announced on Feb. 1 it sold Shell’s Martinez Refinery in California to PBF Holding Company for $1.2 billion as it shifts its focus to value-added products like chemicals.

The company wants a “smaller, smarter refining portfolio focused on further integration with Shell trading hubs, chemicals, and marketing,” Shell said.

By 2025 Shell will only keep a small core set of refineries, it said. A key advantage “will come from further integration with Shell trading hubs, and from producing more chemicals,” it said.

Shell is developing an ethane cracker along with a polyethylene plant with 1.6 million tonnes capacity in Pennsylvania. The plant is expected to be completed in the early 2020s.

The Monaca, Pennsylvania project cost has been estimated at over $6 billion.

U.S. Department of Energy invests in polymer composite research

The American Chemistry Council said on Jan. 30 that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decision to invest $15 million to research plastic composites for vehicles is a recognition to the key role plastics can play.

The comments came after the DOE announced up to $133 million in new and innovative advanced vehicle technologies research, including investment in materials technology.

“It is noteworthy that, of the allocated funds, $15M was set aside specifically for materials technology research,” the ACC said. It noted this research will focus on lightweight, high-performance, fiber-reinforced polymer composites for vehicle applications.

“This funding commitment is also a recognition of plastics’ role at the forefront of automotive innovation. Plastics are helping drive megatrends in mobility, such as fuel efficiency, enhanced safety, autonomous vehicles, connectivity, ride-sharing, and electrification,” it added.

While plastics already make up multiple vehicle parts, including tires, parts, dashboards, paint, and windows, composites could expand the use to parts that are currently metal in the body or engine. Some of the aviation industry’s latest models are already using composites in wings and fuselage.

PTT Global advances site works for cracker, PE project in Ohio

PTT Global Chemical Public Co. continued in Jan. 2020 preparing land for what is expected to become the second cracker and polyethylene project to tap feedstock from the Marcellus and Utica fields.

“There continues to be significant engineering work and site preparation at the project site in Dilles Bottom,” a PTT Global official told Petrochemical Update by email, regarding advances in Belmont County, Ohio project.

The Thai company has yet to announce a final investment decision. The new project could carry a projected cost of over $6 billion and possibly as much as $10 billion, according to industry estimates.

The investment, which has been contemplated for several years, has met local environmental opposition. The company has offered to adhere to standards beyond what the state requires.

U.S. rail companies report on-year rise in chemical carloads in January

U.S. rail companies reported a rise in chemical carloads in January compared with the same month in 2019, one of the few categories that showed gains.

The Association of American Railroads said that the total U.S. originated carloads in January were nearly 1.17 million, about 6% lower than in the previous year.

Just nine out of 20 categories saw gains in January from a year earlier. Total chemical carloads in January 2020 were 3,276, up 2.1 percent from the same month a year earlier.

By Petrochemical Update