Braskem, the largest petrochemical producer in the Americas and the world's leading biopolymer producer, will invest around R$380 million to adopt the use of shale-gas ethane feedstock in its operations. The investment will go to adapting the logistics infrastructure at the Aratu Port Terminal and the connecting pipeline and to adjusting technologies at its Basic Petrochemicals Unit in the Camaçari Petrochemical Complex in the state of Bahia.
To supply the industrial unit, Braskem signed a long-term agreement with the U.S. company Enterprise Products, which will supply, as of mid-2017, shale-gas ethane for use as feedstock in its production of petrochemical products.
Braskem's investment decision is consistent with its strategy to increase the flexibility of its petrochemical production through alternative feedstock sources and in turn boost the company's competitiveness. The industrial plant in Bahia, which is currently 100% naphtha-based, will be able to use up to 15% ethane feedstock once the investments are concluded. Today, petrochemical naphtha represents 85% of the feedstock used by Braskem's crackers in Brazil, with gas accounting for the other 15%. The supply of ethane to the unit at the Camaçari Petrochemical Complex will increase the share of gas in Braskem's feedstock profile in Brazil to 20%.
"The investment aims to increase the competitiveness and flexibility of our feedstock consumption," said Marcelo Cerqueira, vice-president of Braskem's Basic Petrochemicals Unit. "This increased diversification with the use of gas-based feedstock - which is currently abundant in the U.S. market - is a global trend in the petrochemical industry. The move aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the Brazilian chemical and petrochemical chain, as well as Braskem's national and international operations."
From Texas to Bahia
According to Braskem's plans, the shale-gas ethane sold by Enterprise Products will be shipped from the Port of Houston in Morgan's Point, Texas, where it will be liquefied and loaded onto special vessels refrigerated to negative 90°C, to the Liquefied Gas Terminal (TEGAL) in the Port of Aratu in Bahia. From the port terminal, the product will be transported by pipeline to Braskem's Basic Petrochemicals Unit in Camaçari, where it will be gasified once again for use as feedstock.
To enable the new feedstock's use, investments will be made to modernize the Port of Aratu, the connecting pipeline and the industrial unit. Investments include building an unloading, re-heating and transfer system for the ethane; adapting the existing pipeline to carry ethane; reconditioning the cryogenic tank and gas liquefaction systems; and adaptations to systems at the port terminal. The adaptations will begin to be carried out during the maintenance shutdown scheduled for October this year. The industrial unit is expected to start using shale-gas ethane as feedstock in October 2017.
Shale-gas ethane is currently used to produce ethylene, a key raw material in the manufacturing of polyethylene (PE), PVC and EVA. Polyethylene is one of the most versatile polymers, with applications in a wide variety of markets, including plastic bags, films and packaging, tarps and silo-bags for plasticulture, water tanks, electrical wires and cables, water and gas piping, fuel tanks and footwear soles (EVA). Meanwhile, PVC is widely used in the construction industry to make tubes and fittings, windows, doors, flooring, ceiling and roofing panels, as well as hospital and healthcare products, such as blood bags, and in agriculture to make warehouses and irrigation piping.
A subsidiary of the Odebrecht Group, Braskem is the largest thermoplastic resins producer in the Americas, with annual production volume of over 16 million tons, which includes other chemicals and basic petrochemicals, with annual revenues of R$53 billion. Braskem is also the world's largest biopolymer producer, with annual capacity of 200 kton of polyethylene derived from sugarcane ethanol (Green Plastic). Driven by its purpose of improving people's lives and creating sustainable solutions in chemicals and plastics, Braskem is present in more than 70 countries, has around 8,000 Team Members and operates 40 industrial units in Brazil, the United States, Germany and Mexico, the latter in partnership with Mexican company Idesa.
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