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Tue 22 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

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Adding value

Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East travels to Germany to see how LyondellBasell's innovative technologies are helping producers in the Middle East.

Adding value
The company has three major polyolefins JV in Saudi Arabia.
Adding value
Anton de Vries is senior VP at Lyondellbasell.
Adding value
LyondellBasell invests heavily in research and development.
Adding value
Some products produced in Al-Waha or SEPC plants in Saudi Arabia are tested at Hoechst instead of in-site laboratories.

Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East travels to Germany to see how LyondellBasell's innovative technologies are helping producers in the Middle East.

Lacking the in-house cutting edge technology needed to stay ahead of the pack, Middle East petrochemical producers need to join forces with technology owners. For firms able to provide that technical know-how the door is open to become a partner of choice with the gas rich petrochemical producers in the Middle East. LyondellBasell is one of these companies.

LyondellBasell has had a presence in the region for ten years, which began in 2000 when it joined forces with National Industrialization Company (Tasnee) to build its first polyolefin project in Saudi Arabia. "It was an excellent decision we made in late 1999. The thinking then was that it is difficult to compete with the Middle East due to the feedstock advantage, so it is wise to form partnerships in the region," says Anton de Vries, senior VP olefins and polyolefin, Europe, Asia & International.

LyondellBasell now participates in three olefins and polyolefins joint venture companies in Saudi Arabia with Tasnee and Sahara Petrochemical Company, the three JV's are Saudi Polyolefins Company (SPC), Saudi Ethylene and Polyethylene Company (SEPC) and Al-Waha Petrochemical Company. All these JV's are based on LyondellBasell's proprietary technology including the largest Spherizone for the production of PP, Lupotech T for LDPE and Hostalen ACP for HDPE technologie.

Following the start up of production from its facilities in the Middle East, the company has announced cessation of polypropylene production (PP) at Terni, Italy, due to the high production costs and the difficult market environment. The Terni plant had a nameplate capacity of 255,000 tonnes per year.

Moreover, the company counts on the throughput from its Middle Eastern facilities to solidify its position around the world.

"We need to use the extra capacities from SEPC and other Middle East plants to strengthen our position in reaching worldwide customers," says Tassilo Bader, senior vice president, polyolefin solutions.

Technology focus

A cornerstone of the company's global business is developing process technology and catalysts, in addition to the production of polymers, chemicals and fuel. "The majority of our technologies are for open licensing, but our Catalloy and Polybutene technologies are only for in-house utilisation," de Vries says. "We invest heavily  in research and development," he adds.
The company operates an industry leading  R&D centre, with advanced laboratories, in Hoechst industrial park in Frankfurt, Germany. In this centre, the company conducts  testing and analysis under very strict  pressure, temperature and humidity environments.

Some products produced in Al-Waha or SEPC plants in Saudi Arabia are tested at Hoechst instead of in-site laboratories. "Some of the tests are to be undertaken here in Hoechst, as the newly established laboratories in Saudi Arabia need to work with a reference laboratory before achieving the required international reputation," says Dr Hans-Friedrich Enderle, senior researcher at the research and development centre, polymer physics and characterization, in Hoechst.

Wesseling site

The company operates more than 50 manufacturing sites in 19 countries. One of the company's largest sites in Europe is Wesseling, located on the Rhine River, which began operations in 1953. The complex has production capacity of more than 2.2 million tonnes of polyolefins per year. Two crackers, four high density polyethylene plants, two low density polyethylene plants, three polypropylene plants and one advanced polyolefins plant are in operation. The crackers run with mixed feedstock, which is sourced via pipeline or from the adjacent Shell refinery. The products from the facilities are used in films, cable and pipe coatings, fuel tanks, injection molding applications and housewares.

What sets it apart is that it has its own power plant of 470 MW, which allows the company to operate efficiently, along with wastewater treatment and sewage incineration plants.

Consolidating positions

The Middle East operations are set to be a very important for the company due to different reasons, such as the feedstock advantage, and it geographical location near the growing Asian markets. The company intends to use these new capacities to serve better its clients, whether in polyethylene or polypropylene business, and hence, consolidate its position in this business.

Moreover, on the R&D side, the company tries to develop energy efficient products as it everybody want to reduce the production cost. "Our goal is to develop efficient technologies by reducing the steam and electricity consumption of the plants, as customers require energy-efficient products," de Vries concludes.