Exxon, Sabic select site for new Texas cracker; Nova Chemicals buys Louisiana plant

Our pick of the latest petrochemicals news you need to know.

ExxonMobil, Sabic pick San Patricio County site for new ethane cracker

ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia's Sabic have selected a site in San Patricio County-- next to Corpus Christi, Texas-- for their joint 1.8 million mt/year (mtpa) Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV) ethylene facility project, the companies announced April 19.

The proposed GCGV project will include an associated monoethylene glycol unit and two polyethylene units on the site. ExxonMobil and Sabic will now apply for the necessary air and wastewater permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and a final investment decision will be made after the required permits have been granted, the companies said in a joint statement.

The Corpus Christi area has good access to natural gas and natural gas liquids from the Permian Basin, where ExxonMobil holds oil and gas production reserves. The area has access to rail networks to transport products, either to domestic hubs or to the Houston ship Channel for export.

The GCGV project forms part of Exxon's 'Growing the Gulf' plan to spend $20 billion in 2013-2022 on Gulf Coast refining, petrochemicals and LNG export projects.

ExxonMobil is targeting key export markets such as Asia though 11 Gulf Coast chemical manufacturing and export facilities, including back-to-back ethane cracker projects which will add to the region's surging ethylene supply.

                   Exxon’s 'Growing the Gulf' expansion program
                                             (Click image to enlarge)

Data source: Perryman Group report: 'Economic and fiscal benefits of ExxonMobil’s current and proposed Gulf Coast operations and investments', media reports.
1. Some expenditure values from the Perryman Study reflect dollars changing hands as a result of the economic stimulus, and may slightly overstate the project cost.

The GCGV project is expected to take around five years to build and the estimated cost of the project has been reported at around $10 billion, although many of the current Gulf Coast ethane cracker projects have seen costs rise during the construction period.

"It is premature to speculate on final costs until detailed design is completed and the value of construction contracts is available," Aaron Stryk, ExxonMobil spokesman, told Petrochemical Update last month.

The project expected to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase, as well as 600 full-time jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs during operations.

Nova Chemicals to buy olefin plant in US market push

Nova Chemicals is to buy an 88.5% stake in the Geismar, Louisiana ethylene and polythene plant from Williams Partners, as well as 525 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the plant, and Williams’ interest in the Ethylene Trading Hub in Mt. Belvieu, Texas, Nova Chemicals said April 17.

Nova Chemicals, headquartered in Calgary, Canada, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

The Geismar plant produces approximately 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene and 114 million pounds of propylene per year and the acquisition forms part of Nova Chemicals expansion in the U.S. Petrochemicals market.

Last month, Total announced it would form a 50-50 joint venture with Nova Chemicals and Abu Dhabi-controlled Borealis, to build a 1 million mt/year ethane steam cracker in Port Arthur, Texas and a new 625,000 tonne/year polyethylene plant on the Bayport site, Texas by 2020. Nova Chemicals has also proposed to build a polyethylene plant at Sarnia, Ontario and a final investment decision is expected this year.

“The [Williams Partners transaction] transaction provides us with the opportunity to acquire an operating facility with immediate, positive cash flow, and with access to new customers and the benefits of an experienced workforce," Todd Karran, President and CEO of NOVA Chemicals, said in a statement.

The [acquisition] allows us to diversify our geographic footprint benefiting from access to significant U.S. shale gas reserves and well established petrochemical and supply chain infrastructure,” Karran said.

Houston terminal operator handles record 146 million barrels in Q1 2017

Houston's Enterprise Products Partners handled a record 146 million barrels of hydrocarbon import and export flows at its marine terminals in the first quarter of 2017, some 10 million barrels higher than the previous record set in Q2 2016, the infrastructure operator said April 12.

The loading of natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, condensate, refined products and petrochemicals accounted for approximately 62% of total marine terminal volumes in the first quarter of 2017, it said.

Average crude oil flows were 648 million barrels per day (mbpd) while natural gas liquids (methane, propane, butane's) represented 569 mbpd, Enterprise said.

Average refined product flows were 384 mbpd while petrochemicals flows (propylene) averaged 15 mbpd, it said.

The Enterprise Hydrocarbons Terminal on the Houston Ship Channel accounted for approximately 60%, or almost 922 thousand barrels per day, of Enterprise's total volumes handled in the first quarter of 2017.

Recent investments in dock expansions mean the facility can handle up to 2.0 million barrels per day, depending on the mix of hydrocarbon cargoes and imports versus exports, A.J. Teague, chief executive officer of Enterprise’s general partner, said in a statement.

"Recently, we believe the Houston Ship Channel has been a victim of erroneous claims of growing congestion. Large vessel traffic on the waterway has essentially been flat since 2012," Teague said.

Houston's local onshore storage facilities, vessel traffic service, two-way traffic, vessel dimension capacities and lack of military and offshore platform limitations means the port remains highly competitive in the Texas Gulf Coast region, Teague said.

Petrochemical Update