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Formosa delays cracker, LDPE plant startup


No timeline on new cracker, LDPE startup

LyondellBasell, Sasol continuing commissioning on new PE plants

  • Editor
  • this month. Overall
  • Commodity
  • Petrochemicals

Houston — Formosa Plastics will not start up its new 1.5 million mt/year cracker and 400,000 mt/year low-density polyethylene plant in Texas by year-end as planned earlier, a spokesman said Friday.

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"We encountered some unexpected delays," spokesman Fred Neske said in an email. "Neither the LDPE nor the cracker plant will be running by the end of the year."

He said the company did not have an estimate of when the plants at Formosa's Point Comfort, Texas, complex would come online. A new 400,000 mt/year high density and linear low-density PE plant at Point Comfort started up in August.

Shintech's new 500,000 mt/year cracker in Plaquemine, Louisiana, also is yet to start up, according to a source familiar with company operations. Originally slated to start up in summer 2018, Shintech delayed that milestone to December 2018, then to the first half of this year, and again to this month.

In November Shintech, the US arm of Japan's Shin-Etsu, said the company tried to feed ethane into the new cracker in October and but "were faced with a problem. We are currently making earnest efforts to make adjustments with the aim of starting operation in December."

Shin-Etsu was unavailable for comment Friday.

New LyondellBasell, Sasol PE plants commissioning

Two other new polyethylene plants continued commissioning on Friday with startup expected soon.

"Our Hyperzone polyethylene capacity is being commissioned as we speak," LyondellBasell spokeswoman Chevalier Gray said in an email Friday regarding the company's new 550,000 mt/year high-density PE plant along the Houston Ship Channel. "We now expect volumes to ramp up during the first quarter of 2020 with increasing profitability throughout the year."

She said the company does not "expect any meaningful production before year-end."

Formosa and LyondellBasell's new PE plants are among 13 in operation or starting up from 2017 through this year -- and now into 2020 with Formosa's delays - in the first wave of new petrochemical infrastructure to emerge from the US natural gas shale boom that unearthed bountiful cheap ethane. They also are two of the last three in that first wave. The third is Sasol's 420,000 low-density PE unit in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Sasol said earlier this week that commissioning continued at its new LDPE plant and was expected to reach beneficial operation -- defined by the company as 72 hours of continuous on-spec production -- this month.

Overall, the first wave of new PE production is bringing 6.4 million mt/year of capacity online. About 7.27 million mt/year of new capacity is under construction or planned through the 2020s in the second and third waves, as per company announcements.