BASF Total cracker revamped to run ethane

BASF Total Petrochemicals LLC (BTP) has completed a revamp of its steam cracker in Port Arthur, Tex., enabling the 1-million-tonne/year facility to process ethane, supply of which is increasing from US shale plays.

Construction of another steam cracker at the site is under consideration.

The existing cracker, adjacent to the 174,000-b/d Port Arthur refinery operated by Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc., was commissioned in 2001 to process naphtha.

Patrick Pouyanne, president of Total Refining & Chemicals, of which the US unit is part, said ethane costs about $30/boe, while naphtha costs about $100/boe.

The cracker now can use butane and propane, which also are cheaper than naphtha, as feedstock.

After the revamp, the Port Arthur cracker can produce as much as 40% of its ethylene from ethane and another 40% from butane and propane.

BTP has begun construction of a 10th ethane-cracking furnace at the facility. Scheduled to come on stream in the second quarter of 2014, the furnace will increase cracking capacity by nearly 15%.

Total owns 40% of BTP. BASF holds 60%.

Total is dedicating its share of ethylene produced by BTP to its polyethylene plant at Bayport, Tex., and its share of propylene to its polypropylene plant at La Porte, Tex..

“In light of the impact of the shale-gas revolution on the global petrochemical industry, Total is also examining a project to build a new ethane steam cracker that would be tied to the original Port Arthur steam cracker to capture maximum synergies while leveraging this cost-advantaged feedstock,” Pouyanne said.

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