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Celanese to Seek Methanol Plant in South Texas

Dallas-based Celanese Corp. said it will "explore plans" for building a methanol production facility at its Bishop, TX, complex. The company is preparing to apply for environmental construction permits for the plant.

Eyed as a 1.3 million metric ton/year (mmty) plant, Celanese said building the unit would depend upon economic incentives it hopes to get from government authorities. "The methanol unit would use abundant, low-cost natural gas in the U.S. Gulf Coast region as a feedstock and would benefit from the existing infrastructure at the site," a company spokesman said. On average, it takes 32 Bcf of gas to produce 1 mmty of methanol.

Company officials said the proposed unit would be similar in scope and scale to the joint venture methanol unit under construction at the company's Clear Lake, TX, site, about 500-600 miles north of Bishop (see Daily GPI, June 15, 2012).

At that time, CEO Mark Rohr said that positive developments in the U.S. energy sector and an emerging natural gas surplus made it advantageous for Celanese to produce its own methanol, which is required for U.S. acetyl production.

For the Bishop facility, a combination of "strategic upstream methanol production, attractive Gulf Coast natural gas economics, and existing infrastructure make building another plant "a unique opportunity," Rohr said.

In another similarity to the Texas plant already under construction, Celanese officials said they will entertain creating a joint venture development and operations unit at the Bishop plant.

Rohr called the Bishop site "a world-class manufacturing site" for Celanese's specialty chemicals, engineered materials and pharmaceutical products. The plant already under construction is slated to have a significant portion of the methanol produced used to support the company's current operations, and it will seek other partners for the rest of the plant's capacity.

There have not been any proposed cost elements for either new Celanese facility. A $1 billion mega-project in Beaumont, TX, introduced late last year by Dutch fertilizer giant OCI NV is counting on cheap domestic natural gas to fuel what it says is the largest-ever U.S. methanol plant. The greenfield facility planned by subsidiary Natgasoline LLC could begin operations by late 2016, capable of producing up to 1.75 mmty of methanol (see Daily GPI, Nov. 22, 2013).

Since January 2009, NGI's Bidweek TETCO S. TX natural gas index has traded at an average discount of 16 cents compared to the Henry Hub.

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