USA: Engineering Lyondell Basell Commences Work on World's Largest PO/TBA Plant

Editor: Ahlam Rais

Once complete, the 2.4 billion dollar project is expected to produce 1 billion pounds of PO and 2.2 billion pounds of TBA annually. With this plant, the firm aims to strengthen its position as a global petrochemical and manufacturing hub.

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Lyondell Basell's ground breaking ceremony of the world's largest propylene oxide (PO) and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) plant.
Lyondell Basell's ground breaking ceremony of the world's largest propylene oxide (PO) and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) plant.
(Source: Lyondell Basell)

Texas/USA – Lyondell Basell has officially broke ground on what will be the largest propylene oxide (PO) and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) plant ever built. The Houston area project is estimated to cost 2.4 billion dollars, representing the single-largest capital investment in the company's history. Once in operation, the plant will produce 1 billion pounds (470,000 metric tonnes) of PO and 2.2 billion pounds (1 million metric tonnes) of TBA annually. Startup of the plant is planned for 2021.

The plant is expected to be the largest of its kind and is being built to meet the rising global demand for urethanes used by billions of consumers each day and clean-burning oxyfuels that will help improve air quality around the world.

To optimise product balances and realise synergies between Lyondell Basell sites, two facilities will be constructed on existing manufacturing sites. The 140-acre PO/TBA plant will be built at the Lyondell Basell Channelview Complex located in Channelview, Texas while an associated 34-acre ethers unit, which will convert TBA to oxyfuels, will be built at the company's Bayport Complex in Pasadena, Texas.

The company chose to build the new plant at these existing locations along the Texas Gulf Coast because of their proximity to low-cost feedstocks and the transportation infrastructure needed to ship products to markets around the globe.

Based on an analysis by the Greater Houston Partnership, Lyondell Basell's PO/TBA project is estimated to generate more than 453 million dollars in tax benefits for the county, school district, community college and other local taxing districts over a 10-year period. The Channelview site is expected to deliver 349 million dollars in tax benefits and the Pasadena site is expected to create 104 million dollars in benefits. The project is expected to create more than 2,200 construction jobs at the peak of construction and 160 permanent positions.

Built to Meet Global Demand

PO is used to make bedding, furniture, carpeting, coatings, building materials and adhesives, while TBA will be converted to two ether-based oxyfuels, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE). Both MTBE and ETBE are high-octane gasoline components that help gasoline burn cleaner and reduce emissions from automobiles.

Global demand for urethanes is projected to grow by 4 to 5 percent over the next five years due to emerging economies in Asia and India and their increased demand for consumer products. The global TBA market is expected to increase by 3 percent annually between 2018 and 2028, as drivers and governments in Asia Pacific and Latin America seek to improve air quality with cleaner-burning gasoline.

Lyondell Basell plans to sell the PO and derivative products to both domestic and global customers, while the oxyfuels will be primarily sold into Latin America and Asia. A portion of the TBA will remain in the domestic market in the form of high purity isobutylene which is used in tires and lubricants. The majority of the products will be exported via the Houston Ship Channel.

Company Growth

The PO/TBA project is part of Lyondell Basell's 5 billion dollar organic growth programme taking place on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The firm has recently completed ethylene expansion projects at the company's La Porte, Channelview and Corpus Christi sites in Texas, finalising a multi-year plan to increase annual ethylene capacity in the U.S. by 2 billion pounds (900,000 metric tonnes).

Additionally, the company is currently constructing a world-scale polyethylene (PE) plant at its La Porte Complex, which utilises Lyondell Basell's pyroprietary Hyperzone PE technology and will more than double that site's PE capacity to 2 billion pounds (900,000 metric tonnes) per year.

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