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Lotte Chemical opens its ethylene plant in Louisiana

Posted May. 11, 2019 07:38,   

Updated May. 11, 2019 07:38


On a rainy day on May 9 (local time), a South Korean petrochemical company officially made its debut in the U.S. shale gas market by opening its plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the hub of the “revolution of shale gas,” which has helped the U.S. become the world’s largest oil producer. Lotte Chemical invested 3.6 trillion won in the past three years to build its ethylene cracker (ECC) / ethylene glycol (EG) plant. By holding an opening ceremony for the facility, the company has embarked on a competition in the U.S.

The facility, which is built on the site aslarge as 1.02 million m² (the size of 152 football fields), is the first large-scale petrochemical plant in the U.S. constructed by a South Korean company. The plant is drawing attention as it will use ethane unlike naphthacracker (NCC) plants, which use naphtha derived from crude oil. Ethane is a byproduct of U.S. shale gas, whose production cost has been steadily declining. The ethane will be supplied from Mont Belvieu, a large hub for shale gas in the Gulf of Mexico, through a 200-kilometer gas pipe and will be turned into ethylene by being used as the raw material for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and textiles.

“Lotte Chemical has become the first South Korean petrochemical company to invest in and construct two world-scale petrochemical plants in the U.S.,” said Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who has been leading the project since the beginning of the shale gas boom in 2012.“ With our new plant in operation, the global production capacity of ethylene will increase from the current 3.5 million tons to 4.5 million tons a year, making our firm No.1 in South Korea and No.7 in the world.” Lotte Chemical’s plant will produce 1 million ton of ethylene and 700,000 tons of EG, raw materials for antifreeze and synthetic textiles, a year. The company plans to export about 60 percent of them to Europe and Asia. The new plant is viewed as a production base, which combines the “resources” of the U.S. and “technology” of South Korea.

“We’re planning to increase our sales in the chemical sector to about 50 trillion won in 10 years, taking a leap from No. 22 to No. 7 in the world,” said Kim Gyo-hyun, head of Chemical BU at Lotte Chemical.

Yong Park parky@donga.com