LyondellBassel wins federal grant for Houston project

Houston-based chemicals corporation LyondellBasell has received a $4.5 million federal grant to develop technology that lowers the pollution and cost of processing ethane.

The company is developing a product designed to prevent carbon buildup on equipment used to crack ethane into ethylene, a precursor to the plastics used for everyday household goods. Eliminating the carbon buildup in tubing makes ethane cracking more efficient, reducing the cost and energy required by the process, company spokesman David Harpole said.

The tube coating technology  is one of the first projects to be tested at LyondellBasell’s new research and development center under construction near Houston,  Harpole said. Construction of the 70,000-square-foot R&D facility is scheduled to be completed in October.

The Channelview facility will employ 90 chemists, engineers and technicians and will house labs and 20 pilot plants for testing new products.

Ethylene production is the biggest energy consumer in the chemical industry and LyondellBasell hopes its technology will reduce its energy use by 6 to 10 percent, according to the project description.

The coating would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Harpole added.

The product is being developed in a joint venture by BASF Qtech and Qauantiam Technologies. Over three years, it will be developed and tested in one of the first pilot plants in LyondellBasell’s new Channelview R&D facility, Harpole said.

LyondellBasell will funnel $2.2 million into the project, according to a company release.

“Access to low-cost ethane from shale gas over the past three years has changed the competitive position of the U.S. chemical industry,” said Tim Roberts, LyondellBasell senior vice president of olefins and polyolefins – Americas, in a written statement. “This grant helps to facilitate faster development of catalyst-assisted technology for ethane cracking.”

The Department of Energy granted $54 million to 13 projects that seek to develop tools and techniques that improve energy efficiency in U.S. manufacturing.