BP’s refocused petrochemicals strategy is pursuing a competitively advantaged portfolio through world-scale, low-cost facilities that utilize BP proprietary technology including the production of purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, a key raw material in the production of polyester.
“BP’s world-leading technologies and global positions allow us to compete in today’s highly competitive marketplace,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive of BP’s global downstream business. “Our strategy is to significantly improve the cash breakeven performance of the business, enhancing earnings potential and making it more resilient to bottom-of-cycle conditions. We look to have a portfolio with BP’s world-leading technology resulting in highly efficient production of PTA in key markets around the world.”
BP is spending $200 million to upgrade its Cooper River, S.C., plant and its sister facility in Geel, Belgium – the largest PTA-producing sites in the Americas and Europe, respectively. The investment will enable the two facilities to lower operating costs, improve reliability and reduce emissions. Earlier this year, BP also started up its new Zhuhai 3 unit in Guangdong Province, China. Using BP’s latest technology and capable of producing up to 1.25 million tons of PTA per year, Zhuhai 3 is the world’s largest single-train PTA production unit as well as being one of the largest and most efficient PTA production units in the world.
While BP’s Decatur complex no longer fits with this strategy, the facility has been a major contributor to BP’s U.S. petrochemicals business for many years. It makes chemicals essential for the production of thousands of items, from plastic water bottles to flat-screen televisions.
Located on 1,000 acres in Northern Alabama, the complex can produce one million tons per year of PTA, as well as paraxylene (PX), a raw material for PTA production. The site also is the only commercial manufacturer of naphthalene dicarboxylate (NDC), a specialty chemical used in new-generation polyesters and resins used to make LCD flat-panel displays, ultra-thin data storage tape and other products. Of the five operating units on the Decatur site, three produce PTA, one makes PX and the other makes NDC.
“The decision to explore a sale of this facility was not taken lightly. It has been a significant part of our company and of the Decatur community for a very long time,” said Rita Griffin, chief operating officer of BP Global Petrochemicals. “We believe the site -- and its more than 400 employees -- would be a very attractive addition to the portfolio of another operator. We’re determined to find a buyer who will recognize its value and keep it a viable and vibrant part of the region for years to come.”
BP expects to complete a sale of all or part of the facility provided a buyer can be found and an acceptable deal can be reached.