After numerous delays pushed back its scheduled launch by a year, the massive Ethylene XXI project will begin production this month in Mexico.

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At one point, the number of workers on Braskem Idesa's massive greenfield petrochemical plant in Veracruz, Mexico topped 10,000.

Announced in 2010 with construction starting in 2012, the $3 billion greenfield joint venture between Brazil’s Braskem and Mexico’s Idesa promises domestic production of 1.05 million tons of polyethylene (PE) annually in a market that currently imports 1 million tons of PE every year.

 

Cleantho Leite Filho, director of institutional relations and business development for Braskem Idesa, told Plastics Technology at Plastimagen 2016 (March 8-11; Mexico City) that production would start at the massive olefins petrochemical complex in the final week of March, with materials delivered to customers in April.

 

Located in the Coatzacoalcos Petrochemical Complex in the city of Nachital, state of Veracruz, the operation is jointly owned by Braskem and Idesa, with 65% and 35% interest, respectively. The facility will utilize ethane supplied by Pemex Gas Y Petroquímica Básica as a raw material, under a 20-year supply contract reportedly with “competitive terms.”

 

The complex consists of three plants, according to Leite, with the first producing low-density polyethylene (LDPE) using LyondellBasell’s Lupotech T technology (read more here), with 300,000 metric tons per year capacity. Products will include everything from fractional and general purpose to film grades, as well as higher melt index injection molding materials and extrusion coating resins, according to Leite.

 

In addition, there are two high-density polyethylene (HDPE) lines or plants, with annual capacity of 350,000 and 400,000 metric tons. Using Ineos’s slurry loop technology, the lines will make mono- and bimodal HDPEs for everything from from t-shirt bags and blow molding grades, to injection molding and tube grades, as well as pipe (general purpose and high performance) and even rotomolding grades.

 

The choice to utilize associated gas, ethane, from Pemex’s oil fields in the region, was made early on, according to Leite. “[Braskem Idesa] understands that ethane will be the preferred raw material to make ethylene,” Leite said. “Even at today’s oil prices, ethane is very competitive.” Leite praised the expertise Braskem brings to the project, noting the Brazilian firm’s 50 years of ethylene manufacturing experience, utilizing naphtha and ethane crackers at more than 15 ethylene plants. He also described the affect the massive domestic plastics production plant would have on the country,

 

“[Ethylene XXI] will have a very good, very positive impact on the Mexican market,” Leite said, noting in particular improved logistics for the burgeoning Mexican plastics processing sector.