Sector News

Ineos re-enters VAM market in Europe with new world-scale plant

September 5, 2017
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

Ineos said today that its Ineos Oxide unit will build a 300,000-metric ton/year vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plant in Europe, which will require an investment of “hundreds of millions of euros.” The move follows the completion of engineering studies into the project. Ineos’s integrated sites in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium are competing for the investment.

Sites at Saltend, near Hull, United Kingdom; Dormagen, Germany; and Zwijndrecht, Belgium are being considered. Each of these locations benefits from pipeline or terminal supply of ethylene feedstock, and low-cost logistics for acetic acid, the other key raw material. All three locations are also well positioned to supply the VAM markets, Ineos says.

In 2013, Ineos closed down a similar capacity unit at Saltend, blaming low-cost imports and a hostile trading environment. Should this site be selected, it would require a revamp of the former unit rather than a new build. “We are pleased to be re-entering the European VAM market where our upstream strength in ethylene and an array of top-notch strategic locations to choose from will give us a competitive advantage. The market is at present heavily reliant on imports from deep sea locations, and our new capacity is designed to plug the gap and improve dependability to our customer base,” says Graham Beesley, CEO of Ineos Oxide. The global VAM market continues to grow following strong demand from a large range of applications that include paints, high-performance films, car fuel tanks, polyvinyl chloride, and adhesives, the company says.

The development dovetails with the recent announcement by Ineos of major ethylene debottlenecks at Grangemouth, United Kingdom, and Rafnes, Norway. Industry sources expect Ineos to restart the Saltend plant rather than build in Germany or Belgium. There is already an ethylene pipeline connecting Grangemouth with Hull, as well as on-site acetic acid supply from BP.

Europe is currently a net importer of VAM, according to IHS Markit. It currently imports 590,000 metric tons/year with tonnage expected to increase to 680,000 metric tons/year by 2026, says Mike Nash, vice president/syngas chemicals at IHS Markit. VAM demand growth in Western Europe is expected to remain very modest in the next 10 years, rising at just below 1%/year, he says. Demand in Eastern Europe is growing faster, at around 5%/year, but from a lower base.

Ineos does not have captive VAM demand, according to IHS Markit records, which means that output from the plant would be exclusively for the merchant market.

By Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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