Texas Petrochemicals to Double PIB Output


Texas Petrochemicals Inc. on Monday confirmed plans to more than double its current production of polyisobutylene by mid-2008 at its Houston plant, to meet growing demands fueled largely by the products use in lubricant and fuel additives. Current capacity at the facility is more than 65,000 metric tons per year.

The company said it has awarded contracts for engineering and construction of the scheduled expansion, which has received final approval from its board of directors. According to Texas Petrochemicals, construction is under way in the field and major equipment purchases are on order. The plant produces both highly reactive PIB (HR PIB) and conventional PIB.

Texas Petrochemicals spokeswoman Sara Cronin said the company sells PIB for a number of applications to a large and diverse market. The fastest-growing demand is in the lubes and fuel additives market, Cronin told Lube Report. The demand for HR PIB is significant in the fuels and lube additives market, and then we also have a strong customer base in the industrial markets. Thats what were striving to continue to support.

Doubling the Houston facilitys capacity to 130,000metric tons per yearwouldmake it the biggest PIB plant in the world. LubesnGreases estimates that the largest currently are INEOSs 90,000 mt/y plant in Whiting, N.J., and Lubrizols 90,000 mt/y plant in Deer Park, Texas. Last month BASF announced plans to expand capacity at its plant in Antwerp, Belgium, by 25,000 mt/y to reach a total of 100,000 mt/y – also responding to demand for HR PIB for use in lubricant additives – with startup scheduled for March 2008.

Texas Petrochemicals Cronin said the construction involves new equipment and assets at the current plant, but not a new building. Upon completion, the expansion will supplement the companys existing production capacity, which began in 2000 and has been debottlenecked during the past several years. The company said a significant portion of the planned capacity is committed to long-term contracted customers, but unreserved capacity is available for new customers seeking to expand their PIB supply.

We also believe the market can accommodate the additional capacity to serve new applications, said Sandra Davis, Texas Petrochemical vice president and general manager for performance products.

In 2006, Texas Petrochemicals officials said North American output of highly reactive PIB was 90 million pounds in 2005 and capacity utilization was in the range of 90 to 95 percent. The company originally announced plans for the Houston plant expansion in September 2006. At that time, Davis said overall North American PIB production capacity was tight, and the market can accommodate additional capacity to serve new applications.”

PIBs are used as base stocks in lubricants – sometimes as an alternative to bright stock – and as a component in metal forming fluids, gear oils, greases and two-cycle oils. They are also used in other applications such as caulks, sealants, adhesives and rubber. Highly reactive PIBs (with alpha-vinylidene content above 75 percent) are used as dispersants in lubes and fuels.

The company first entered the PIB market in May 2000 with startup of its patented process to produce a wide range of PIB products. Since then, Texas Petrochemicals has more than doubled its capacity through multiple expansion projects.

The company is a direct marketer of PIB but also uses national break-bulk distributors. Texas Petrochemicals bills itself as the only merchant producer of HR PIB in North America.

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