Posted on January 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm by Zain Shauk
HOUSTON — The natural gas boom has turned the United States into a magnet for production of methanol, with nine major plants expected to be built, expanded or restarted in the country in the coming years.
LydondellBasell announced Thursday that it had completed the restart of a plant that it had shut down for a decade because of previously high natural gas prices. Celanese said Friday that it had received federal approval to build an $800 million methanol plant at its chemical complex in Clear Lake, Texas.
The announcements came weeks after a Dutch company announced plans to build a more than $1 billion methanol plant in Beaumont, Texas, and as several other chemical businesses continue projects to make more methanol in the United States.
The shift will multiply the nation’s capacity to produce methanol by more than 12 times, from 860,000 tons per year in 2011 to a record 10.5 million tons per year by 2018, according to data from IHS Chemical.
Valero is considering adding to the mix, evaluating a plan for a $700 million methanol plant at its refinery in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, spokesman Bill Day said. Methanex is in the process of disassembling a methanol plant in Chile and relocating it in Geismar, Louisiana.
Building out: Nation’s largest methanol plant planned for Texas
Low natural gas prices are driving the interest in methanol plants.
“Because natural gas is so inexpensive here along the Gulf Coast and natural gas is the basic building block for petrochemicals like methanol, it makes more economic sense to start manufacturing products like that here rather than having it done overseas,” Day said.
LyondellBasell spent about $150 million to upgrade and restart its methanol plant in Channelview, Texas, but the company anticipates it will earn a sizable annual profit from the site because of low natural gas costs. The company expects to pull i