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Resin supply: LyondellBasell plans methanol-to-PP; brings back autoclave technology

LyondellBasell Industries (Rotterdam, Netherlands) has reached an agreement on construction and operation of a fully integrated polypropylene (PP) complex in Trinidad and Tobago that will ultimately feature three world-scale plants and 490,000 tonnes/yr of polyolefin production capacity converting natural-gas derived methanol to propylene instead of using petroleum based naphtha.

LyondellBasell Industries (Rotterdam, Netherlands) has reached an agreement on construction and operation of a fully integrated polypropylene (PP) complex in Trinidad and Tobago that will ultimately feature three world-scale plants and 490,000 tonnes/yr of polyolefin production capacity converting natural-gas derived methanol to propylene instead of using petroleum based naphtha. Lyondell says the plant will target local and regional supply of polyolefins, specifically looking at the South American market, where it forecast demand for those resins to grow at an average annual rate of 5.2%.


LyondellBasell will partner with Trinidad and Tobago’s government; The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. (NGC), National Energy Corp. of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. (NEC), and Lurgi GmbH. The site will include a methanol plant to support a methanol-to-propylene (MTP) process, where propylene produced by Lurgi’s MegaMethanol MTP technology will supply feedstock to a PP plant utilizing LyondellBasell's Spherizone catalyst technology. The companies are targeting a startup for late 2012, with Trinidad and Tobago interested in developing second and third derivative industries for its natural gas.


According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Caribbean island country’s proven natural gas reserves range from 16 to almost 18 trillion cu ft, behind only Bolivia and Venezuela in Latin America. The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago reports that its natural gas goes to local petrochemical producers of ammonia and methanol, power-generation facilities, and iron-ore reduction facilities, which those accounting for approximately 73%, 17%, and 5%, respectively, of its total 2006 sales volume.

In related news from the supplier, it has launched an improved Lupotech A system that is an autoclave production method to make specialty grades of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymers. The high pressure system, the original means of producing polyethylene dating from the 1930s, is cooked up in a strong steel vessel under very high pressure. Many market observers in the last decade have often pooh-poohed the thought of new autoclaves being built because they are reportedly too energy intensive and dangerous.

But LyondellBasell says it has optimized the process which produces a number of LDPE extrusion coating grades to also produce advanced products with demanding processing requirements such as adhesives and sealants with vinyl acetate content >40%. “Products from the Lupotech A process complement the LDPE and EVA portfolio covered by the leading tubular process, Lupotech T (Ed. Note: also a LyondellBasell technology),” says Kaspar Evertz, the company’s senior VP Licensing. “We are excited that we have been able to extend our portfolio of polyolefin (PO) technologies for license to the global markets.”

According to Evertz, the company’s autoclave design has been optimized with multiple zones, an injection method for both monomers and initiators, a special pressure and temperature profile control, and a new agitation system that allows for high conversion rates. Capacity of autoclave-produced polymer using LyondellBasell’s existing Lupotech A method either by the company or its licensees is 1.4 million tones from 44 reactors.

In other news from the company, it is just licensed its PE and polypropylene (PP) technologies for three plants being built in Kazakhstan with a combined nameplate capacity of 1,300,000 tonnes/yr. The facility for Kazakhstan Petrochemical Industires in Karabatan is scheduled to start up in 2013. Neither a 400,000 tonnes/yr LLDPE/HDPE swing plant nor a 400,000 tonnes/yr LDPE facility at the site uses the company’s autoclave technology but instead gas phase and tubular reactors respectively.

TAGS: Materials
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