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Winter storm shuts down chemical production on US Gulf Coast

February 18/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A winter storm has brought unusually cold temperatures, snow, and freezing rain to Texas and western Louisiana, forcing a large share of US light olefins production offline, according to Chemweek.

As of the evening of Tuesday, 16 February, IHS Markit had confirmed the shutdown of at least 61% of US ethylene capacity, 59% of US chemical- and polymer-grade propylene (CGP, PGP) capacity, and 22% of US fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) capacity. Many plants that remained online were running at reduced capacity.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has been inundated with air emission reports from producers whose operations have been affected by the weather. “Extreme cold and instability of electrical supply, nitrogen, and fuel gas systems caused operating unit monitoring and control systems failures,” says a submission by Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) relating to its Sweeny site in Old Ocean, Texas. CPChem shut down its Pasadena plastics complex because the cold has prevented delivery of nitrogen from a supplier. Many producers are also citing loss of steam because of the cold.

The National Weather Service expects temperatures in the Houston area to begin warming up Friday, with a high of 66 F forecast for Sunday.

IHS Markit believes the great majority of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) lines in the area have been offline since Sunday, and they are not expected to restart until the end of the week. IHS Markit has also estimated that at least half of the region’s chlor-alkali and vinyls capacity could be out of service.

Specific South Texas operations shut down by the winter storm include Formosa Plastics’ three steam crackers at Point Comfort, and LyondellBasell’s cracker at Corpus Christi.

Houston, Texas, area, steam crackers shut down include CPChem’s three at Sweeny and two at Cedar Bayou; ExxonMobil’s three at Channelview and Baytown; Ineos’s two at Alvin; and Shell’s one at Deer Park. Dow has shut down one of its Freeport crackers and is running two at reduced rates. LyondellBasell has shut down two of the three crackers it has at La Porte and Channelview, while one has been stabilized.

The Houston area is also home to five on-purpose propylene units. The Enterprise propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit at Mont Belvieu is offline, as is the Flint Hills Resources PDH unit in Houston. Dow’s Freeport PDH unit is running at reduced rates, as are LyondellBasell’s metathesis units at Channelview.

The six steam crackers in the “golden triangle” northeast of Houston have all been shut down. These include BASF/Total, CPChem, and Motiva’s respective units at Port Arthur as well as Dow’s unit at Orange, ExxonMobil’s at Beaumont, and Indorama’s at Port Neches. BASF/Total’s metathesis unit is also offline.

Eastman’s three steam crackers in Longview, Texas, have also been shut down.

IHS Markit has confirmed the shutdown of three steam crackers in Louisiana: Westlake Chemical’s units at Sulphur and Indorama’s unit at Westlake. The status of Louisiana’s other steam crackers, which account for about 24% of US ethylene capacity, is uncertain. Located further east, they have been spared the worst of the cold, but with the winter storm moving in their direction over the next few days, that could change.

As MRC informed earlier, in late August 2020, Chevron Phillips Chemical  shut down its Port Arthur, Texas cracker in preparation for Hurricane Laura. The unit's capacity of 855,000 mt/year. Chevron Phillips also shut its Cedar Bayou, Texas, crackers ahead of the storm. The company's Cedar Bayou crackers 1 and 2 have capacities of 837,000 mt/year and 1.7 million mt/year, respectively.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply of exclusively PP random copolymer increased.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, crude and gaz condensate, PP random copolymer, propylene, LDPE, HDPE, ethylene, petrochemistry, BASF, Chevron Phillips, Eastman Chemical, Enterprise Products, Exxon Mobil, Flint Hills Resources, Formosa, LyondellBasell, Motiva Enterprises, Shell, Total Petrochemical.
Category:General News
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