Regulators approve permits for restart of Louisiana ethane cracker

Indorama Ventures Olefins LLC (IVO), a subsidiary of Thailand’s Indorama Ventures Public Co. Ltd. (IVL), Bangkok, has secured approvals from US regulators to proceed with its plan to renovate and restart a dormant ethane cracker in Westlake, La., just west of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish (OGJ Online, Sept. 25, 2016).

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) has approved a prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permit and a Part 70 air-operating permit, which will allow IVO to modify, restart, and operate Equistar Chemicals LP’s former ethylene and propylene manufacturing complex, which was shuttered in February 2001, IVL said.

The air permit, which is the main environmental permit required by the company in order to proceed with the cracker’s revamp, will enable IVO to begin repair and construction activities at the site a month ahead of the original target date, the company said.

To be jointly owned by IVL (76%) and Singapore-based Indorama Corp. (24%), the refurbished cracker will process both ethane and propane feedstock from US shale production to produce about 370,000 tonnes/year (tpy) of ethylene and 30,000 tpy of propylene.

Output from the cracker will be used to produce monoethylene glycol (MEG), which IVO will use to produce polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Once on stream, PET production from the Lake Charles complex will position the company as North America’s most vertically integrated PET producer, said IVL, which also operates intermediate petrochemical manufacturing sites in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

LDEQ’s approval of the PSD and Part 70 air-operating permits follows the agency’s June approval of the project’s industrial wastewater discharge permit.

The water permit will authorize the complex to discharge liquid effluent through its wastewater treatment plant, which, among others, includes process wastewater, processing-area stormwater, groundwater remediation wastewater, utility wastewater, hydrostatic test water, exchanger water side flush, cooling-tower blowdown diversion, and steam condensate, LDEQ said.

IVO, which has completed debottlenecking-related engineering as well as ordering of all major long-lead equipment for the project, said it remains on schedule to reach mechanical completion in third-quarter 2017, with full commissioning and startup of the revamped complex to follow in fourth-quarter 2017.

Project update

Alongside debottlenecking and equipment orders, IVO also continues to advance a series of activities in preparation for the plant’s refurbishment.

As of mid-July, a local contractor based in Sulphur, La., already was in the process of conducting thorough inspections of pipes, boilers, furnaces, distillation systems, basins, instruments, and vessels as part of IVO’s program to develop an entire refurbishment plan for the complex, according to Dalton Landry, IVO’s site coordinator at the Lake Charles facility.

While IVO has no current plans to expand processing capacity of the original cracker, the company will be upgrading several portions of the plant’s production process based on the best-available control technologies, as well as implementing engineering controls and administrative measures to mitigate all potential hazards it identifies within the mothballed plant.

In addition to redesigning leak detection and repair systems to enable the revamped complex to proactively manage, meet, and exceed all state and federal environmental standards for air, IVO also plans to implement low-emission burners in boilers as well as install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems on furnaces to help reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions from the site, according to LDEQ documentation.

IVL previously said it expects to spend about $175 million on the refurbishment project.

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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