The federal government is kicking in $4.5 million in grant money to support development of technology to crack ethane more cheaply and efficiently. The grant to LyondellBasell is one of 13 announced by the U.S. Department of Energy totaling $54 million that are intended to increase energy efficiency and cut manufacturing costs.

LyondellBasell will develop the catalyst-assisted technology to produce ethylene while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

"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 LyondellBasell's Tim Roberts, senior vice president for olefins and polyolefins. "We have an opportunity to further this advantage through greater energy efficiencies in our manufacturing processes. This grant helps to facilitate faster development of catalyst-assisted technology for ethane cracking."

The company is working with Quantiam Technologies Inc. and BASF Qtech Inc. to develop the technology in a three-part program over the next three years. It will build upon earlier generation ethane and naphtha-fed catalytic coating technology for steam crackers developed by BASF Qtech by extending the benefits to ethane and natural gas liquid-fed steam crackers.

LyondellBasell has six steam cracking units in the U.S. and can process ethane and natural gas liquids for up to 85% of their feedstocks. The estimated cost share for the project in addition to the DOE grant is $2.2 million.

Overall, the DOE grants are to be combined with $17 million from the private sector. Projects receiving grant money "will develop cutting-edge manufacturing tools, techniques and processes that will be able to save companies money by reducing the energy needed to power their facilities," DOE said.

Besides LyondellBasell, companies receiving awards are:

"By investing in breakthrough technologies that can drastically reduce the amount of energy consumed during manufacturing, the Energy Department is supporting President Obama's blueprint for an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy and skills for American workers," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

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