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New ethylene terminal at Houston Ship Channel may be expanded: Navigator Gas CEO

Highlights

Terminal has exported more than 300,000 mt so far in 2020

Terminal to reach nameplate 1 million mt/year capacity in December

Houston — Enterprise Products Partners and Navigator Gas have exported more than 300,000 mt of ethylene from their joint-venture terminal near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel this year, and may consider expanding the terminal if outflows continue growing, Navigator CEO Henry Deans said Nov. 13.

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"The most obvious capital requirement early on will be to consider whether or not we need to expand that ethylene terminal," he said when discussing capital availability during the company's third-quarter earnings call.

"If things go as we anticipate and continued volumes ramp up, we'll need more money for that."

The companies shipped out their first cargo from the terminal in January. US ethylene exports from January through September 2020 reached 452,825 mt, up more than 118% from 206,919 mt in the year-ago period, according to the latest US International Trade Commission data, released Nov. 5.

China remained the top recipient for the fourth straight month, having received 34,936 mt, up 4.7% from August. Belgium surpassed Taiwan, coming in second with 6,717 mt of US ethylene imported, and Taiwan was third with 4,538 mt, USITC data showed.

Deans said Navigator was "pretty confident" the companies could adjust the terminal's capacity by 10% using its current footprint.

"And then the next best one is if you expand in an existing facility because the cost per ton of installed capacity is dramatically reduced. That's a good opportunity," he said.

Oeyvind Linderman, Navigator's chief commercial officer, said the terminal's utilization levels exceeded 90% during the summer months. Once vessels discharged ethylene in Asian ports, captains "had standing orders to double back to the US Gulf to pick up the next export parcel." Linderman said.

The terminal is expected to reach its nameplate capacity of 1 million mt/year in December when a refrigerated tank under construction is on schedule to undergo commissioning and startup, Deans said.

He said ethylene is expected to be loaded into the tank in mid-December.