EPP starts up fifth NGL fractionator at Mont Belvieu

By OGJ editors

Enterprise Products Partners LP reported the start up of operations at a fifth NGL fractionator at its Mont Belvieu, Tex., complex, east of Houston. Initial volumes exceed the unit’s 75,000 b/d nameplate capacity, EPP said.

The new unit increases total nameplate capacity at EPP’s Mont Belvieu site to 380,000 b/d. Under long-term contracts, the unit provides fractionation for increasing NGL production from US shale plays, including Texas’ Eagle Ford and those in the Rocky Mountains and Midcontinent.

A.J. Teague, executive vice-president and chief operating officer for EPP’s general partner, explained that rising US NGL production from shale plays has “created a cost advantage” for US petrochemical producers that favor “domestic NGLs over imported crude oil-based derivatives.”

US petrochemical producers, he said, have responded by increasing demand for NGLs, particularly ethane, which reached as much as 1 million b/d during this year’s third quarter. With petrochemical companies announcing more conversions, expansions, and new construction that will consume additional ethane and gas producers announcing more discoveries of shale plays with NGL-rich reserves, Enterprise has begun building a sixth fractionator at Mont Belvieu, also with 75,000-b/d nameplate capacity, said Teague.

Upon its completion, total nameplate capacity of Enterprise's Mont Belvieu NGL fractionation complex will increase to more than 450,000 b/d. Enterprise anticipates the sixth fractionator starting up in early 2013, when it will be fully contracted.

The additional capacity provided by the fifth and sixth fractionators, said the company’s announcement, will allow Enterprise to process mixed NGLs at Mont Belvieu that are currently being diverted to Louisiana, as well as incremental volumes from the partnership's new Yoakum gas processing plant in Lavaca County, Tex. It is to begin operations in mid-2012.

Based on industry announcements, company research, and other reports, said the company, conversions and expansions of existing petrochemical plants could result in 135,000 b/d of new ethane demand. In addition, construction of new ethylene crackers could generate another 330,000 b/d of ethane demand.

EPP’s assets include 50,000 miles of onshore and offshore pipelines; 192 million bbl of storage capacity for NGLs, refined products, and crude oil; and 27 bcf of gas storage capacity.

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