Braskem mulls import terminal in Mexico, TPC to rebuild butadiene plant, Olin shuts chlor-alkali plant

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Braskem-Idesa plant in Veracruz, Mexico - Photo courtesy of Braskem-Idesa

Braskem mulls building ethane import terminal in Mexico

Braskem may build an ethane import terminal in Mexico in what would be another investment in the Gulf of Mexico region following its new polypropylene plant in Texas where new output will be ready by mid-2020.

Braskem needs ethane to put to use idle capacity at the polyethylene-ethylene plant it co-owns with Grupo Idesa in Veracruz, chief executive Fernando Musa said on Dec. 6 during a meeting with investors in Sao Paulo, Valor Economico reported.

The company evaluates two potential locations to build a 50,000 barrel-per-day terminal. A final decision will come in 2020, he said.

Braskem Idesa polyethylene and ethylene production has declined due to ethane feedstock supply problems with Mexican state oil company Pemex. The plant now runs at 75% of capacity.

A new terminal to import ethane could start operations between 2021 and 2022, Musa estimated.

An import terminal for Braskem-Idesa, which has capacity to produce over a million tonnes of ethylene and polyethylene, would allow a faster unloading of cargo by connecting the terminal by pipelines to the plant.

Any Infrastructure that could ease ethane imports for its Veracruz plant is now lacking, he said.

Braskem has started attempts to try to tap ethane imports from the U.S. by rail while it considers the new import terminal plans.

Braskem Idesa inaugurated the plant in 2016, at the time counting on steady Mexican ethane supplies under a long-term contract.

According to a Nov. 8 report in Mexican newspaper Expansion, Pemex owes nearly $150 million to Braskem Idesa in penalties for failing to deliver enough ethane.

Pemex may even risk to be forced to acquire the project in 2026 if supply disruptions continue. The plant had a $5.2 billion construction cost.

Separately, Braskem’s new polypropylene output from La Porte, Texas will reach the market by mid-year, Musa said.

“But we are importing now (into the U.S.) polypropylene from Brazil for marketing and we’re now discussing contracts for next year,” said Musa.

According to Valor Economico, Musa said that Braskem moved with the polypropylene plant construction in the U.S. because North America had not seen a polypropylene capacity increase for 15 years. At the same time. plant closings pushed 1.5 million tonnes out of the market, he said.

The company’s new La Porte, Texas plant will produce 450,000 tonnes of polypropylene annually and it resulted from a $675 million investment. Braskem already has five production units in the U.S., Musa told Valor Economico.

Musa will end his term at the end of December.

TPC to rebuild butadiene plant damaged by explosion

TPC Group will rebuild the Texas site where on Nov. 27 one of the butadiene processing units blew up, injured workers and damaged nearby homes, a company official told Beaumont Enterprise on Dec. 10.

The explosion caused a fire that lasted a week and forced large evacuations at Port Neches, Texas.

The company now concentrates work around the site to evaluate the extent of damages at the facility with 426,000 tons of butadiene capacity, about 16% of the country’s total, according to a report in Beaumont Enterprise.

It’s too early to provide a timeframe for the reconstruction work, said company spokeswoman Sara Cronin., according to Beamount Enterprise.

Olin to shut chlor alkali plant

Olin Corporation announced on Dec 11 it plans to shut down a 230,000-tonnes capacity chlor alkali plant as well as its vinylidene chloride production facility, both in Freeport, Texas.

These closures will be completed before the end of 2020 in a move aimed to slash operating costs by $35 million, a press release said.

"With today's announcement we have taken necessary steps to reduce our annual fixed costs, align our production capacity with the current needs of the marketplace and focus on chlorine derivatives," CEO John Fischer said.

Olin Corp. makes chemicals including chlorine and caustic soda, vinyls, bleach and hydrochloric acid. 

Ineos, Agilyx advance on polystyrene recycling plant in Illinois

Ineos Styrolution, a thermoplastics resin producer, said on Dec. 9 that along with plastics to low-carbon fuels producer Agilyx it is advancing in the development of a polystyrene recycling plant southwest of Chicago.

The plant will process 100 tons-per-day of post-consumer polystyrene to turn it back into a styrene product that "will go in the manufacturing of new polystyrene products”.

By Petrochemical Update