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New Shintech ethane cracker in Louisiana starts up: contractor

Houston — Shintech's new 500,000 mt/year Louisiana cracker has begun producing ethylene after more than 18 months of delays, the contractor for the polyvinyl chloride producer said Thursday.

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Japan's Toyo Engineering and its US subsidiary, Toyo USA, said construction on the cracker was finished and the plant has "started production of ethylene," according to a statement on the company's website.

Shintech did not respond to requests for comment.

The new cracker at Shintech's Plaquemine, Louisiana, PVC complex expands Shintech's in-house feedstock output while reducing spot ethylene purchases.

The cracker is the last of eight to bring a cumulative 9.74 million mt/year in new ethylene capacity online since 2017. That total rises to 10.68 million mt/year when including Indorama Ventures' revamped 440,000 mt/year Louisiana cracker and a 500,000 mt/year expansion of Dow Chemical's 1.5 million mt/year cracker in Texas that started up in September 2017.

Another 8.3 million mt/year of new ethylene capacity is under construction or planned to come online through the 2020s.

All are part of more than $200 billion in new petrochemical infrastructure to emerge from plentiful cheap ethane unearthed by the US natural gas shale boom.

Late last month Shintech's parent, Japan's Shin-Etsu, said during a quarterly earnings presentation that the cracker was "actually on the verge of starting operation" and was expected to begin cracking ethane in the first week of February.

However, the cracker had faced repeated lengthy startup delays. Contractor issues in the summer of 2018 caused a construction slowdown on the $1.4 billion project that delayed its original targeted startup that summer. The company then pushed startup to the end of 2018, followed by more than a year of repeated delays amid continued commissioning.

Sasol saw similar delays with its 1.5 million mt/year cracker in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which reached commercial production last month, more than a year after the initial December 2018 startup target.