Sasol announced last week that its new 1.5 million tons per year ethane cracker in Lake Charles, Louisiana, reached a milestone in its start-up Aug. 27, producing on-spec for 72 consecutive hours. The cracker’s ethylene output will be used in six downstream plants to produce derivatives, including some used as ingredients in metalworking fluids and lubricants.
Last month Sasol encountered problems that interrupted the start-up of the ethane cracker, according to press reports.
The ethylene produced in the facility will be used in six downstream plants on site to produce a range of high-value derivatives. These include ethylene oxide, which can be combined with amines to produce a variety of amino alcohols, some of which are used in the lubricants industry; and ethoxylates, which can also be used in lubricants. Other derivatives produced will include mono-ethylene glycol and Ziegler and Guerbet alcohols.
Part of the company’s Lake Charles Chemical Project, the ethane cracker is the third of seven facilities to come online at the project and is considered the most significant. The cracker currently operates stably at a capacity utilization of around 50 percent. The Lake Charles Chemical Project’s downstream units use the current output, and the remainder is sold to external customers.
The company said about 90 percent of the crackers ethylene output will be further processed into commodity and high-margin specialty chemicals for markets in which Sasol has a strong position. The remaining 10 percent will be sold on the merchant market and supply Sasols share of a high-density polyethylene joint venture with Ineos in Texas.
Sasol said the utilities and infrastructure that enable the entire project are fully operational. The linear low-density polyethylene and ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol units achieved the 72-hour milestone, known as beneficial operation, earlier this year. The low-density polyethylene unit is expected to achieve beneficial operation by November, while the Ziegler alcohol, ethoxylates and Guerbet alcohol units are on track for early 2020.
With the first three units commissioned, plants representing more than 60 percent of the projects total output are now online, Sasol Joint President and CEO Bongani Nqwababa said in a news release, adding that construction and commissioning teams were working to deliver the rest of the units between November 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.
“The cracker is the cornerstone of Sasol’s transformation into a global chemicals company,” Sasol Joint President and CEO Stephen Cornell said in a news release. “It solidifies our presence in the United States and will anchor our operations there for decades to come.”