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Formosa Plastics' new Texas cracker starts operating: sources

Houston — Formosa Plastics' new 1.5 million mt/year cracker in Point Comfort, Texas, has come online and was seen ramping up through January, according to sources familiar with the company operations.

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"Formosa cracker is running, and is shown to be ramping up to full rates by the end of January," one of the sources said.

"The new unit was up last week and has been running smooth," a second source said.

The company's new 400,000 low density polyethylene plant at Point Comfort "should be ready in February for now," the second source added.

A company spokesman did not provide any update on the status of the plants Wednesday.

Formosa had initially planned to start up the new cracker and LDPE plant by end-2019, but spokesman Fred Neske said days before Christmas that the units encountered unexpected delays. At the time, he said Formosa had no timeline on when the startup process would resume.

Formosa's new cracker is the seventh of eight to come online in the first wave of petrochemical infrastructure to emerge from the US natural gas shale boom that unearthed cheap ethane feedstock. The eighth, Shintech's new 500,000 mt/year cracker, also is expected to start up this month or February after more than a year of delays.

All told, the eight crackers starting up since 2017 will bring more than 9.7 million mt/year of new ethylene capacity online. A second wave of new cracker capacity under construction or planned beyond 2020 will add at least 8.8 million mt/year of output, though Saudi Aramco's Motiva Enterprises has not disclosed the capacity of a new cracker planned near its 603,000 b/d refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.