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LyondellBasell details ethylene boost at Corpus Christi, plans PE unit

12:07 PM MDT | March 14, 2013 | Robert Westervelt

LyondellBasell Industries said today that it will add 800 million lbs/year of ethylene capacity at its Corpus Christi, TX, site by late 2015. Company officials also announced plans to add as much as 1.2 billion lbs/year of polyethylene (PE) in the United States by 2016 at an analyst meeting in New York today.

The company said in October that it was considering ethylene expansion at Corpus Christi but did not detail capacity or timing. Capital cost of the Corpus Christi project is estimated at $430 million, Tim Roberts, LyondellBasell senior v.p./olefins and polyolefins for the Americas, told investors today. 

LyondellBasell also revealed plans for a new US polyethylene plant and to debottleneck an existing unit in the United States. Roberts says that a debottlenecking expansion will add 220 million lbs/year of PE in 2014. Capital cost for that project is estimated at $20 million. The company is also planning a new 1-billion lb/year PE plant for 2016 start-up. Capital cost for the project is estimated at $200 million/year. The company also said today that it will invest $200 million in a natural gas liquids recovery unit to capture 150 million lbs/year of ethane and propane. The recovery project would be online in 2016.  

"The availability of abundant supplies of natural gas and natural gas liquids from shale deposits is creating a tremendous advantage for US manufacturers, and LyondellBasell is well positioned to seize this opportunity at our Gulf Coast and Midwest facilities," says LyondellBasell CEO James Gallogly.

The Corpus Christi project brings LyondellBasell's planned US ethylene expansions to nearly 2 billion lbs/year by the end of 2015, an 18% boost to current US capacity. "Our program of expanding current assets will add the capacity equivalent to a large existing cracker, be onstream earlier, and avoid the higher costs of constructing a new grassroots plant," Gallogly says.

It had previously announced an 800-million lb/year expansion at La Porte, TX; and a 250-million lb/year ethylene expansion at Channelview, TX, with both projects due onstream in 2015. The company will also expand its 2 Midwest US crackers by 100 million lbs/year in 2013. Capital costs for the LaPorte, Channelview, and Midwest expansion projects are $545–570 million, Roberts says.

LyondellBasell is configuring its US olefins assets to run 100% domestically-produced feedstocks, with up to 90% being natural gas liquids such as ethane, Gallogly says.

LyondellBasell also announced today that construction has commenced on the restart of a 260-million gal/year methanol plant at Channelview. Start-up of the methanol plant is projected for fourth-quarter 2013. In Europe, a 40% expansion of butadiene capacity at Wesseling, Germany, is scheduled for completion later in 2013.

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