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CP Chem starts up new Baytown cracker delayed by Hurricane Harvey

Houston — Chevron Phillips Chemical has started up its new 1.5 million mt/yearsteam cracker near Baytown, Texas, after a months-long delay caused byunprecedented rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, the company said Monday.

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The steam cracker's ethylene output will feed CP Chem's derivative units,including two new 500,000 mt/year polyethylene units 90 miles away at Phillips66's refining and chemical complex in Sweeny, Texas.

CP Chem had targeted third-quarter 2017 to start up the cracker, shortlyafter bringing the new PE plants online.

But Harvey swamped the cracker's Cedar Bayou site with five to eight feetof water in some places, pushing mechanical completion to the end of last yearfollowed by commissioning in Q1 2018.

The Harvey flooding also delayed startup of ExxonMobil's new 1.5 millionmt/year cracker at its Baytown refining and chemical complex, which isundergoing commissioning.

The Sweeny PE plants, which started up in September, had been close tobeing fed hydrocarbons when Harvey reached Texas August 25 in the middle ofthe Texas Coast. The storm parked over the Houston area before moving to farsoutheastern Texas, dumping record rainfall that forced widespreadpetrochemical plant shutdowns, closed major ports, and snarled trucking andrail logistics as well as utilities for days or weeks from Corpus Christi,Texas to the Louisiana state line.

Company officials were not able to enter the Cedar Bayou site to assessdamage for a week after Harvey.

The new cracker also will feed CP Chem's normal alpha olefins plants, thecompany said.

CP Chem's plants are among eight new crackers and 14 new polyethyleneplants starting up along the US Gulf Coast in the 2017-2019 time period in thefirst wave of petrochemical infrastructure to emerge from the US natural gasshale boom and its bounty of cheap ethane.

CP Chem's cracker is the third of those eight crackers to start up, andwill be followed by OxyChem's joint-venture 544,300 mt/year cracker in CorpusChristi and DowDuPont's 1.5 million mt/year plant in Freeport, Texas, in 2017.

Of the 14 polyethylene plants, six -- with a cumulative capacity of morethan 3.1 million mt/year -- started up in 2017, including CP Chem's two newunits.

--Kristen Hays, kristen.hays@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com