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Cheap NatGas Prompts Restart of Texas Methanol Plant

Low natural gas prices, thanks to shale plays, prompted the restart late last year of LyondellBasell's methanol plant in Channelview, TX, the company said Thursday.

The unit had been out of service since 2004 due to the rising cost of natural gas, the key feedstock for methanol production. The restart is among dozens of capacity expansions and new plants announced or under way to take advantage of low-cost gas and natural gas liquids (see Daily GPI, Dec. 30, 2013).

"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 for intermediates and derivatives. "The methanol plant project and our other significant de-bottleneck projects will bring new capacity into our system earlier and at substantially lower cost than constructing entirely new facilities."

A spokesman declined for competitive reasons to provide details on the gas consumption of the restarted facility.

Other LyondellBasell growth projects include expansions of ethylene capacity in Texas at La Porte, Channelview and Corpus Christi that will add 1.8 billion pounds to the company's annual capacity, and the expansion of a polyethylene facility in Matagorda County, Texas.

Methanol is used in the production of chemicals such as acetic acid and formaldehyde, and in products including adhesives, foams, plywood subfloors, solvents and windshield washer fluid. Methanol also is used in global gasoline production through direct blending, as well as for the production of methyl tertiary butyl ether, a gasoline component produced by LyondellBasell.

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