LyondellBasell eyes debottlenecks to expand North American ethylene

LyondellBasell will raise its ethylene capacity in North America by 18% in coming years through several debottlenecking projects, its CEO said on Wednesday.

Locations where ethylene capacity will be expanded include crackers in Corpus Christi, La Porte and Channelview, Texas, according to the company. The projects are scheduled to be finished in 2014 and 2015.

Jim Gallogly, CEO of LyondellBasell, made his comments at the company's annual investor day in New York. He said the company aims to finish its projects two-to-three years earlier than industry competitors building new plants, all at a lower cost.

"We hope these projects will be paid for before our competitors even come online," he said.

Gallogly said he expects ethane to stay price-advantaged in the US for at least the next five years. He noted that natural gas producers are still incentivized to produce wet gas and, as a result, LyondellBasell plans to raise its ability to crack natural gas liquids (NGLs) from 85% to 90%.

LyondellBasell also said it was "in the early stages" of evaluating a 1 million lb/year polyethylene plant in North America by 2016.

Overall, the company plans to invest $1.6 billion in growth capital expenditures (CAPX) over the next four years, adding over $1.5 billion/year in new earnings by 2017.

Aside from the North American ethylene debottlenecks, proposed projects also include a methanol restart in the US and a butadiene expansion in Germany.

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