Air Liquide, BASF and Shell join carbon capture initiative in Houston; Braskem makes first propylene import into East Coast in a decade; Omicron slows jet fuel recovery in first quarter 2022

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Braskem´s polypropylene plant in Texas. Image courtesy of Braskem

Air Liquide, BASF and Shell join carbon capture initiative

Air Liquide, BASF and Shell have joined Calpine, Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon, NRG, Phillips 66 and Valero in efforts to study a plan to build underground carbon capture and storage (CCS) that could prevent harmful emission releases in the atmosphere.

The companies are evaluating how to use “safe, proven CCS technology at Houston-area facilities that provide energy and products” including power generation, plastics, and fuels, according to the joint statement from Jan. 20.

The plan is to store up to 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, and later double that capacity within another decade. The process consists in the injection of emissions into deep underground formations.

A U.S Department of Energy analysis estimated storage capacity along U.S. Gulf Coast formations could store up to 500 billion metric tons of CO2. This is over 130 years of industrial and power generation emissions in the U.S., based on 2018 data.

According to the MIT Climate Portal website, one tonne of CO2 would occupy a 27-ft cube, with each side about the length of a telephone poll. Each American is responsible for roughly 16 tonnes per year of such emissions, it added.

The companies announced the CCS initiative last year.

Braskem makes first propylene import into East Coast in a decade

Braskem Americas, the Philadelphia-based unit of the Sao Paulo-based company and the biggest polypropylene producer in the U.S., announced on Jan. 20 what it described as the first propylene import into the U.S. East Coast in a decade.

“The vessel arrived at Repauno's Port and Rail Terminal new multi-use port terminal facility for energy products in Gibbstown, New Jersey,” the company said.

Propylene is the monomer polymerized into polypropylene. Propylene is one of the basic petrochemicals along with ethylene, benzene, butylene, toluene, and xylenes.

Braskem said the import is part of plans to enhance feedstock optionality to supply propylene to its facility in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. 

"It provides the flexibility to import in the event of supply disruptions to the asset,” said Alexandre Elias, the company´s vice-president for polypropylene.

Braskem's Marcus Hook facility, bought in 2010, produces about 415,000 tonnes of polypropylene per year.

Repauno is located on the Delaware River and is served by Conrail with access to CSX and Norfolk Southern railways. There is also access to the I-95 highway that crosses the Eastern U.S.

Braskem has most production capacity in Brazil. It also produces ethylene and polyethylene in Mexico.

Omicron slows jet fuel demand in first quarter 2022

The fast spread of the Omicron variant since December caused a bump in air travel demand recovery that will hurt U.S. air travel revenue in the first quarter but won´t derail projections for a return to near pre-pandemic levels in 2022, top executives of a leading airline said on Jan. 13.

Glen Hauenstein, president of Delta Airlines, said that the company´s capacity in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 79% restored compared with pre-pandemic levels. This was an increase of 6% from the previous quarter.

“For 2022, we still expect our full-year capacity to be approximately 90% recovered versus 2019,” he said while discussing fourth quarter 2021 earnings, according to a Motley Fool transcript.

“We're seeing the rate of recovery step down in the months of January and February to approximately 70% versus 2019 levels from nearly 80% where we were in December,” said Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, also according to the transcript.

“We expect first quarter to be the only loss-making quarter for the year, and we're confident that we'll generate a meaningful profit for the full year of 2022 as the recovery resumes,” Bastian said.

The company hired 9,000 workers last year and in 2022 it may hire anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000, Bastian said.

Officials at San Antonio-based refinery Valero had said back in October that they anticipated a recovery of air travel, and jet fuel demand, back to close to pre-pandemic levels by 2022.

Jet fuel is lagging as other fuels like gasoline have already shown a strong demand recovery in 2021.

By Reuters Events Downstream