French energy giant Total is planning to build a new, $2 billion steam cracker in Port Arthur to produce up to 2.2 million pounds of ethylene a year.
Total contracted with The Woodlands-based CB&I for front-end engineering and design for a second cracking unit at the Paris-based company’s existing Port Arthur campus. A final decision on the project is expected next year and the project would be completed in 2019, Total announced Wednesday.
Ethylene is the primary building block of most plastics; the growth of petrochemical projects in southern Texas is surging thanks to the influx of cheap natural gas from U.S. shale that serves as the feedstock to help make chemicals and plastics.
In response to that natural gas glut, Total Refining and Chemicals President Philippe Sauquet said the company is working to strengthen its global petrochemicals and refining presence.
“In the United States, we want to capitalize on the shale gas revolution during which gas prices have plunged 66 percent,” Sauquet said in a prepared statement. “In such an environment, the advantage to investing in petrochemical activities is access to a plentiful, inexpensive feedstock and to low-cost energy for our plants.”
The Port Arthur complex is one of Total’s six major integrated platforms worldwide. The refinery there is owned by Total, but the petrochemical plant is operated by a joint venture between BASF and Total, with BASF owning the majority 60 percent stake. In 2013, BASF and Total revamped the existing Port Arthur steam cracker to primarily process ethane and butane, which come from natural gas, instead of the more expensive naphtha, which is derived from oil production.
Total said it is in talks with potential co-venturers for the planned second side cracker.
CB&I said the project would involve its latest ethylene technology, including seven highly selective cracking heaters.