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Borealis seeking wider global presence, CEO tells CW

October 23, 2019
Chemical Value Chain

Borealis, Europe’s second-largest polyolefins producer, is seeking a wider global presence, CEO Afred Stern tells CW. He was speaking on the sidelines of the K 2019 plastics show in Dusseldorf.

Borealis is owned 64% by the Mubadala Investment Co. (Abu Dhabi) and 36% by the energy group OMV (Vienna). Borealis is also a partner with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) in Borouge, a manufacturing joint venture (JV) at Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, which is undergoing a major expansion. It is also entering the US market through Bayport Polymers (Baystar), a 50/50 JV between Total and Novealis Holdings, a JV between Borealis and Nova Chemicals, also owned by Mubadala. The JV is investing $1.7 billion in a 1-million metric tons/year (MMt/y) ethane cracker at the Total refinery site at Port Arthur, Texas. Baystar broke ground on a 625,000-metric tons/year, Borstar-process polyethylene (PE) plant at Pasadena, Texas, in March. The project is the first to use Borstar technology in the US. Borealis will, through this project, benefit from low-cost US feedstock.

“We want to be a more global company. We have European heritage and we are continuing to invest in Europe because it is an important region,” he says. The company has grown massively in Abu Dhabi in the past 20 years and is currently engaged through Borouge in building a new polypropylene (PP) plant at Ruwais. It is also in the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase for a world-scale Borouge 4 petrochemicals complex.

“These projects are giving us a broader geographic coverage, but we want to push this further into other geographies where we can find feedstock advantage or see demand growth,” Stern says.

The company already has access to competitive feedstock through Borouge and is studying investment in a petchems project in Kazakhstan. Together with the local United Chemical Co., it is studying construction at Atyrau of a 1.2 MMt/y ethylene plant and two downstream Borstar-process PE production facilities. Stern foresees Borealis owning up to 50% in a potential JV in Kazakhstan. A final investment decision on this project could be made in 2022, he says. It would use feedstock from the Tengiz and Kashagan oil fields near the Caspian Sea.

In March this year, Borealis and Adnoc signed an MOU to explore potential polyolefin growth opportunities in key geographical markets. The first such project is expected to be a four-party tie-up in India. Under a recently signed MOU, Borealis and Adnoc will join BASF and the Adani Group (Ahmedabad, India) in a propylene-based project at Mundra, Gujarat, India. A joint feasibility study will evaluate the establishment of a $4-billion chemical complex in Mundra. The partners are planning to build a world-scale propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant to produce propylene based on propane feedstock to be supplied by Adnoc. Part of the propylene will be in a PP complex, owned by Adnoc and Borealis, based on Borstar technology. BASF and the Adani Group will offtake some of the propylene for their previously announced acrylics project at the site. The partners aim to finalize the feasibility study by the end of the first quarter of 2020 with production commencing in 2024.

In Europe, Borealis’s largest single investment is a €1-billion ($1.1 billion) PDH plant at Kallo, Belgium. It will be designed to produce 750,000 metric tons/year of propylene with roughly half of that total going to Borealis’s downstream PP units in Belgium and the rest for sale on the merchant market. Borealis is adding 80,000 metric tons/year PP capacity at the Kallo 300,000-metric tons/year plant and some 280,000 metric tons/year at Beringen, Belgium, where it operates a 385,000-metric tons/year PP plant. “There are two things that are happening in the European propylene market,” Stern says. “Propylene consumption is continuing to grow but supply, in particular from refineries, and from steam crackers will go down; crackers because of the use of lighter feeds, and we are a part of this, and from refineries because we think that over the years there will be a reduction in refining capacity and with the PDH plant we want to cover the deficit,” he says.

Borealis, primarily a petrochemicals and polyolefins producer with 2018 revenue of €8.3 billion, also owns a small fertilizer business whose future within the group is being assessed. The company does not split sales, but Stern says that the 5 MMt/y fertilizer operation lacks critical mass. Borealis has carved out the business, which also includes technical nitrogen and melamine, into a standalone unit and is looking for partners. “We are open to different solutions where we could see a good future. Europe is a big and important fertilizer market, but our business needs to become bigger,” he says.

By Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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