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Business

Yet Another U.S. Cracker Project Is Announced

Formosa planning a massive new petrochemical complex in Louisiana, as another project advances

by Alexander Tullo
September 4, 2015

Even after a dozen firms have announced multi-billion-dollar U.S. ethylene cracker projects, the rush to build petrochemical plants to take advantage of cheap and plentiful shale gas shows no sign of abating.

Formosa Petrochemical, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics, has launched a feasibility study for a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that would be built in St. James, La. The project was unveiled through the office of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, who visited Taiwan last year in a bid to win the project for his state.

Formosa envisions a two-stage project. The first phase would feature an ethane-based ethylene cracker, as well as high- and low-density polyethylene, ethylene glycol, polypropylene, and other plants. The second phase would double capacity.

Assuming a final go-ahead, Formosa plans to begin construction next year and begin hiring plant workers in 2018. It hopes to start construction on the second phase in 2022.

Another Formosa unit, Formosa Plastics, is already building a new cracker in Point Comfort, Texas. It is slated for startup in 2017.

Separately, PTT Global Chemical is progressing on its proposed cracker complex in Mead Township, Ohio. The Thai petrochemical and bio-based plastics maker says it plans to spend $100 million on front-end engineering and design and has already picked Fluor Corp. and Bechtel Enterprises Holdings as contractors.

The project, which is slated to have Japanese trading firm Marubeni as a partner, would feature a 1 million-metric-ton-per year ethylene cracker. It would draw ethane feedstock from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations.

Ohio governor John R. Kasich, who is also running for president, says the project marks a major step for Ohio in participating in the shale gas revolution. The cracker would be on the site of a coal-fired power plant that was shuttered in 2011.

“Building an ethane gas cracker in Eastern Ohio has the ability to be a real game changer for our economy as we make our state a hub for the energy industry,” Kasich says. PTT plans to make a final investment decision in 12 months.

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