ExxonMobil to start polypropylene capacity in Louisiana in 2022; U.S. pipeline companies disagree with initiatives for new regulator; Shell completes sale of Deer Park refinery to Pemex; InterPipeline sees plastic plant completion on budget

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ExxonMobil to start up new polypropylene capacity in Louisiana in 2022

ExxonMobil plans to complete in 2022 its polypropylene resin production capacity expansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after the January startup of its new ethylene and polyethylene capacity in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“We're already ramping up manufacturing at Corpus Christi and expecting to start up our Baton Rouge polypropylene expansion later this year,” ExxonMobil´s CEO Darren Woods said on Feb. 3, according to a transcript of the fourth quarter earnings discussion by Motley Fool.

ExxonMobil announced in 2019 a 450,000-tonnes-per-year polypropylene expansion in Baton Rouge that was at the time expected to be completed by 2021.

According to Oct. 2021 reports by The Advocate newspaper and Business Report, both of them regional publications following the construction, the expansion was budgeted at $500 million with completion at that time estimated by 2022.

Polypropylene resin can be molded with heat and has multiple applications including mesh bags, face masks, automotive, and carpets. Like polyethylene, it has many packaging uses.

Corpus Christi startup

ExxonMobil and Sabic confirmed on Jan. 20 the startup of their joint venture project in Corpus Christi, Texas.

ExxonMobil and Saudi Basic Industries Corp., or SABIC, didn´t share a budget in their March 2019 statement to announce plans to build the 1.8-million-tonnes per year ethane cracker and three derivative petrochemical units in Corpus Christi.

ExxonMobil´s CEO Darren Woods had said in 2019 that the project would become the world’s biggest steam cracker, and emphasized its location well positioned to benefit from Permian ‘production.

The ethylene produced by the cracker feeds two new polyethylene units with a combined 1.3-million-tonnes-per-year capacity, an ethylene oxide unit, and a 1.1-million-tonnes-per-year-capacity mono ethylene glycol unit. Construction started in the third quarter of 2019.

ExxonMobil and Sabic have partnered in several Middle East ventures but this is their first joint venture in the United States.

ExxonMobil said in January it will restructure its global operations and combine its refining and chemicals businesses. It will also move its corporate headquarters from Dallas to Houston. Karen McKee, head of Exxon Chemical, will run the combined refining and chemicals unit to be called ExxonMobil Product Solutions.

U.S. midstream companies disagree with initiatives for a new regulator

Companies that move hydrocarbons and are organized under different associations jointly said on Jan. 19 in a statement that any plan to create a new regulator to oversee pipelines won´t increase cybersecurity or improve resilience against extreme weather.

The American Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Public Gas Association, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the GPA Midstream Association, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and the Natural Gas Supply Association signed the statement.

The initiatives for more regulation that the groups oppose came after Colonial Pipeline, which moves gasoline and other oil products from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Northeast and supplies along the way the Southeastern U.S., was the target of a May 6-7, 2021 cyberattack that temporarily shut operations.

Separately, Winter Storm Uri left millions without power for several days in Texas in Feb. 2021.

“We remain concerned that any proposal designed to create a new, additional pipeline reliability regulator will not effectively promote pipeline reliability, given that it will create duplicative and conflicting authority,” the statement said.

The groups refer to legislation proposals that would give new supervisory powers to the proposed new Energy Product Reliability Organization.  However, the associations claim it will duplicate “existing and forthcoming TSA” (Transportation Security Administration) pipeline cyber and physical security requirements.

Shell completes sale of Deer Park refinery to Mexico´s Pemex

Shell said on Jan 20 that it was able to complete the sale and transfer to Mexican state oil company Pemex of a controlling stake in the Deer Park refinery near Houston, an equal joint venture between Shell and Pemex, for $596 million to be paid in cash and debt.

“The agreement covers the sale of Shell´s 50.005% interest in the partnership, and therefore transfers full ownership of the refinery to Pemex,” Shell said.

Shell Chemical will continue to fully own and run an adjacent petrochemical plant.

Shell’s U.S. portfolio includes oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, gasoline, lubricants, along with renewables such as wind, solar, electric vehicle charging and hydrogen.  

Shell´s plans for the U.S. in 2022 include starting its 1.6-million-tonnes-per-year polyethylene plant in Pennsylvania following nearly half a decade of engineering and construction.

Canada´s InterPipeline to complete plastic resin plant in 2022 on budget

Canada´s midstream operator InterPipeline said on Feb. 2 along with its fourth quarter earnings that it targets a mid-2022 startup of its polypropylene plant near Edmonton, Alberta as planned and without significant budget changes.

“We continue to target a mid-2022 start-up, despite ongoing COVID-related challenges,” it said.

Final cost adjustments aren´t anticipated to “significantly impact the final capital cost,” it added. 

The company said that the central utilities block for the 525,000-tonnes of polypropylene annual capacity project is already installed and power is already being produced and supplied to the Alberta grid.  

InterPipeline started construction nearly four years ago. In 2021 the company was bought by an asset management group with properties that include a portfolio of transportation-related companies.

By Reuters Events Downstream