By Ben DuBose
Total is considering a project to build a new ethane steam
cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, to capitalize on cheap, shale
The France-based company made the announcement Thursday in
conjunction with the startup of its revamped cracker in Port
Arthur, which it operates as part of a venture with BASF.
new cracker "would be tied to the original Port Arthur steam
cracker to capture maximum synergies while leveraging
cost-advantaged feedstock," said Patrick
Pouyanné, president of Total's refining and chemicals business.
"Our strategy in the United States consists of consolidating
our production base by taking advantage of market trends," he
The existing cracker is a 40/60 joint venture between Total
The Port Arthur steam cracker is one of the biggest in
the world, with a capacity of 1 million tons of ethylene per
year," said Pouyanné. It was commissioned in 2001
to process naphtha, distilled from petroleum. In response to
petroleum product price hike and the emergence of abundant gas
resources, we adapted the steam cracker to give it flexibility
and maintain its competitiveness.
"It can now use as a feedstock ethane, which costs around
$30 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) -- versus around
$100/boe for naphtha -- and liquefied petroleum gases such
as butane and propane, which are also cheaper," he added.
The Port Arthur steam cracker will be supplied with ethane
produced in Mont Belvieu, Texas, through which most US natural
gas liquids (NGLs) transit.
Since early April, the existing Port Arthur cracker has had
the capability to produce up to 40% of its ethylene from ethane
and another 40% from butane and propane.
In addition to that project, Total and BASF said they
have also begun building a 10th ethane cracking furance,
scheduled to come onstream in the second quarter of 2014.
The new furnace will improve the steam cracker's
availiability and efficiency, raising its cracking capacity by
Total noted that it is earmarking its share of ethylene
produced in Port Arthur for its Bayport polyethylene
plant and its share of propylene for its La Porte polypropylene
plant, the worlds biggest. Both facilities are also located in