LyondellBasell restarts Texas plant amid cheap natural gas

HOUSTON — LyondellBasell has restarted a Gulf Coast chemical plant that had been dormant for a decade, inspired to make the change because of low natural gas prices, the company said Thursday.

The methanol plant, which has a capacity to produce 780,000 tons of methanol per year, was shut down in 2004 because natural gas prices in the United States became too high, the company said.

The plant transforms natural gas into methanol, a material used to manufacture chemicals like acetic acid and formaldehyde. It is also used in adhesives, foams, plywood, solvents and windshield washer fluid, and it can be used as a direct replacement for gasoline in cars.

Several other companies have recently announced plans to build or restart methanol plants along the U.S. Gulf Coast to take advantage of low natural gas prices to produce the chemical product.

“The methanol plant restart is the first in a series of U.S. Gulf Coast projects by LyondellBasell to take advantage of the natural gas price advantage that we enjoy from shale gas,” said Patrick Quarles, senior vice president of intermediates and derivatives for LyondellBasell, in a written statement. “The methanol plant project and our other significant debottleneck projects will bring new capacity into our system earlier and at substantially lower cost than constructing entirely new facilities.”

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LydondellBasell began restarting the methanol unit in early December, spokesman David Harpole said.

“The fact that the unit had not been in service for about a decade required some time to ensure that operations were stable,” Harpole said.

The plant has added 24 new jobs to LyondellBasell’s complex in Channelview, Texas, Harpole said.

Harpole would not disclose how LyondellBasell had sourced methanol for all of its chemical production prior to the plant, or whether the company will be able to now fully source all of its methanol needs.


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