Petrotahlil :The cracker, at the company's Lake Charles complex, initially began coming online in July, but was shut to address a heat exchanger problem before startup resumed in August.
However, the plant failed to surpass 60% of its nameplate capacity because its acetylene removal system was underperforming, Sasol said. The company shut the cracker in late November, replaced the acetylene reactor catalyst, and restarted the plant.
"Ethylene production rates are approximately 85%-90% of nameplate capacity and are increasing," the company said.
Sasol also said that its new 420,000 mt/year low density polyethylene plant continued commissioning and was expected to reach beneficial operation -- defined by the company as 72 hours of continuous on-spec production -- this month.
Sasol started up a new 470,000 mt/year linear low density PE plant at the complex in February.
The company will round out the Lake Charles newbuilds by bringing the ethoxylates and Guerbet alcohols units online in January, followed by the March startup of a Ziegler alcohols unit.
Sasol's Lake Charles project began with a $9 billion price tag, which grew to $12.6 billion-$12.9 billion by May 2019 as labor costs rose and officials discovered delayed reporting of issues with internal controls and flawed forecasts. Sasol's board named a new CEO, Fleetwood Grobler, in October to replace co-CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell. Grobler, who had been executive vice president of Sasol's chemical business, became CEO November 1.
Sasol's new cracker is one of eight starting up in 2017-2019, the first wave of new petrochemical infrastructure to emerge from the US natural gas shale boom. All told, the first wave will bring online nearly 10 million mt/year of new ethylene capacity, while the second wave -- through the 2020s -- is expected to add another 8.3 million mt/year.
Sasol's new LDPE plant is one of 13 to come online during that first wave, adding 6.4 million mt/year of capacity. Another 7.27 million mt/year is planned to start up after 2020, according to company announcements.
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