Markets & Companies

2017 Through the Rear-view Mirror

Part 7: Timid awakening of European investment

09.01.2018 -

Across the pond, Europe ,too, saw some major investment announcements in 2017, the first for many years. Olefins and polyolefins giant Ineos led the way. Its three major projects, costing a total of £2 billion, are planned to include a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant producing 750,000 t/y of propylene and expansions at its crackers in Grangemouth, UK, and Rafnes, Norway, respectively. Output of each cracker is due to rise to more than 1 million t/y.

Ineos said the expansions were made possible by its investments in Dragon gas carriers to ship ethane from the US, aimed at reducing its reliance on buying ethylene and propylene , along with increasing feedstock self-sufficiency.

The Swiss-based group also revealed plans for a world-scale cumene plant in Germany, both to meet customer demand and improve raw material supply to its phenol and acetone plants in Gladbeck, Germany, and Antwerp, Belgium. Start-up is scheduled for 2020.

In July 2017, Ineos Oxide said it had decided to proceed with an engineering study into producing various oxo-chemical derivatives, following its purchase of French chemical producer Arkema’s share in Oxochimie. Potential locations for a plant include Zwijndrecht, Belgium; Dormagen, Germany; or Lavéra, France.

Major polyolefins group Borealis, based in Vienna, Austria, disclosed plans to build a PDH plant in Kallo, Belgium, adding to an existing unit there. Capacity will be 740,000 t/y of propylene with start-up potentially set for the second half of 2021.

The extra propylene would feed additional PP output. Borealis is studying a program of debottlenecking in Europe, initially targeting its three PP plants in Kallo and Beringen, Belgium. The expansions are anticipated to go on stream from Q1 2020 through to early 2022.

In Germany, PVC producer Vinnolit announced plans to expand capacities for chlorine and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) at its Gendorf site. The company, which has been part of the US Westlake Group since July 2014, will use ThyssenKrupp Uhde’s energy-efficient single-element membrane technology. At the same time, Vinnolit will expand VCM capacity in two steps through 2021.

Japan’s Toray Industries announced plans to build a polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) compound plant at the Nyergesújfalu, Hungary, site of its US subsidiary Zoltek Companies, which makes carbon and oxidized fiber products. The 3,000 t/y facility is expected to start operations in March 2018. Investment costs were not revealed. It will be Toray’s first PPS compound plant in Europe.

Polish companies Grupa Azoty and Tauron signed a letter of intent to construct a coal gasification plant at Kedzierzyn Kozle in southwestern Poland.  The aim, they said, was to manufacture chemicals that had been either imported (methanol) or made from externally sourced natural gas (ammonia). Investment costs were estimated at between €400-600 million, depending on the selected technology.

The firms said they had determined that the natural gas currently used for nitrogen-based fertilizer production could be partly replaced with synthesis gas (syngas) from coal gasification, which would create new opportunities for the mining industry and help advance low emissions technology, while also enhancing the country’s energy security.

To read more about the important events of 2017, click on the links below.