LyondellBasell announced Wednesday that low natural gas prices were leading it to consider a second expansion of its ethylene plant in Channelview, TX, which could add another 550 million pounds to the facility’s annual capacity.

The company said preliminary engineering work was already underway at the plant to assess the feasibility of a second expansion. If the project were to proceed, it could be completed in 2017.

Expansion work is already taking place at the Channelview plant on the Houston Ship Channel. Two cracking furnaces are being installed that would increase production capacity by 250 million pounds/year. The first expansion is expected to be complete early next year.

Two more ethylene plants in Texas are also being expanded (see Daily GPI, Jan. 3). LyondellBasell said it has just completed an 800 million pounds/year expansion at its facility in La Porte, TX, which is near Channelview, also on the Ship Channel. Meanwhile, at its plant in Corpus Christi, TX, about three hours southwest along the coast, construction of another 800 million pounds/year expansion is expected to be completed in late 2015.

LyondellBasell said once the expansions at La Porte, Corpus Christi and the first expansion at Channelview are completed, the plants collectively would hold 1.85 billion pounds of annual ethylene capacity. That figure should increase to 2.4 billion pounds/year if the second expansion at Channelview is undertaken.

“Our strategy continues to be the cost effective expansion of existing facilities to take swift advantage of abundant supplies of low cost natural gas and ethane from shale production,” said LyondellBasell’s Tim Roberts, executive vice president for olefins and polyolefins in the Americas. “The additional ethylene capacity we are already adding at our three Texas plants through existing expansion projects is the equivalent of constructing a new stand-alone cracking unit.”

Ethylene is used in manufacturing and other industries, including the automotive industry. LyondellBasell, based in the Netherlands, ranks fifth in global ethylene production.

Last month, LyondellBasell announced plans to build a world-scale propylene oxide and tertiary butyl alcohol plant on the U.S. Gulf Coast (see Daily GPI, Aug. 26).