CB&I signs on to do early engineering for Louisiana chemical plant

CB&I Chairman and CEO Philip K. Asherman, May 23, 2014 in The Woodlands, TX. (Eric Kayne/For the Chronicle)
CB&I Chairman and CEO Philip K. Asherman, May 23, 2014 in The Woodlands, TX. (Eric Kayne/For the Chronicle)

CB&I has won the contract to perform early engineering and services work for a petrochemical plant a U.S.-Korean joint venture is planning in Louisiana.

South Korea’s Lotte Chemical Corp. and Atlanta-based Axiall Corp. finalized the agreements in June on their LACC joint venture to build an ethane cracker plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The cracker would make ethylene, which is the primary building block of most plastics. The plant would produce about 1 million metric tons of ethylene a year.

CB&I, which is domiciled in the Netherlands but operates out of The Woodlands, is the first major contractor brought on board.

There are $147 billion in petrochemical and manufacturing projects underway or planned in the U.S. through 2023, according to the American Chemistry Council, most of which are in Texas and Louisiana. The companies are not releasing project and contract costs, but new ethane crackers typically are multibillion-dollar projects.

“CB&I has worked closely with Axiall Corporation and Lotte Chemical to develop this project from the beginning,” said Patrick Mullen, president of CB&I’s engineering and construction operating group, in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to affirm our relationship with both companies and look forward to supporting this important initiative.”

A final investment decision on moving forward with the project is still expected by the end of the year. CB&I said the project would use its latest ethylene technology, including its highly selective SRT cracking heaters.

The companies did not respond Wednesday to additional requests for comment and information.

If the project moves forward as planned, Lotte Chemical said it also will build a monoethylene glycol plant next to the cracker, but without Axiall’s involvement. Monoethylene glycol is a raw material used to make everything from polyester resins to antifreeze and coolants.