Chemical giant BASF said on Monday it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s Sinopec Corp to build a steam cracker in east China, the second major investment pledged by the German firm in four months.
China, the world’s top chemicals consumer, is allowing greater access by global majors and local independents to its massive chemicals market to feed plastics, coatings and adhesives to the fast-growing consumer electronics and automotive sectors, as well as polyesters for clothing.
According to the MoU, BASF-YPC, the German group’s joint venture with Sinopec in Nanjing, will invest in a 50 percent stake in the new cracker. SINOPEC Yangtzi Petrochemical (YPC) will take the other 50 percent.
“This additional investment into a new steam cracker and the expansion of our BASF-YPC joint venture in Nanjing underline the strong partnership between Sinopec and BASF and the commitment to our customers in China,” BASF Chief Executive Martin Brudermueller said.
BASF said the new steam cracker will have an annual capacity of one million tonnes of ethylene, a building block for plastics, rubber and synthetic fibre. The group declined to disclose financial details.
A joint venture consisting of French oil group Total (TOTF.PA), Borealis [BESGR.UL] and NOVA Chemicals [INPTVN.UL] last year said it would spend $1.7 billion on an ethane steam cracker at Port Arthur, Texas, with a similar capacity.
In July, BASF landed a preliminary deal to build China’s first wholly foreign-owned chemicals complex in Guangdong, worth some $10 billion in investment to 2030, aided in part by trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The German group made 22 percent of sales in the Asia-Pacific region last year, its annual report shows. It does not break out Chinese numbers.
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BASF said a joint pre-feasibility study on the cracker will be completed by the end of 2018.
Zhong Jian, chief analyst with consultancy JLC, said global chemicals firms have been encouraged by China’s top leaders, who have repeatedly expressed support this year for foreign investment in the petrochemicals sector.
“The companies are more ambitious than just building ethylene plants. They are aiming for a bigger market share in the whole supply chain and the ethylene complex might just be their first step,” said Zhong.
BASF and Sinopec will also explore new business opportunities in China’s fast-growing battery materials market, they said. Founded in 2000, BASF-YPC has spent approximately $5.2 billion in China.
“The rising importance of alternative energy in China, especially in the automotive industry, has led to a surge in demand for innovative battery materials for a range of applications,” the groups said in a joint statement.
Following on from BASF’s July deal, U.S. energy titan Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) signed a pact in September to build a petrochemical complex in Huizhou city of Guangdong, which will also be solely foreign-owned.
Just a week later, Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) (2010.SE) followed suit and signed a deal with Fujian government.
By Chen Aizhu, Meng Meng
During a European Industry Summit held on the site of BASF in Antwerp, leaders from basic industry sectors, representing 7.8 million workers in Europe, joined forces with European trade unions and European leaders to address pressing concerns regarding Europe’s industrial landscape.
The use of blue or low-carbon hydrogen, made from natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS), could increase near-term global warming by 50% compared with burning fossil fuels directly for energy if emissions are not properly managed, according to a new study by NGO the US Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the University of Arizona.
In a move to improve the supply of renewable hydrogen and thus reduce dependence on natural gas and contribute to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan, the EU Commission has approved a third Important project of common European interest (IPCEI) to support hydrogen infrastructure.