Celanese Planning More Ethanol Investments
Jun16

Celanese Planning More Ethanol Investments

Celanese can’t seem to plunge into the ethanol business fast enough. Back in November, the company announced it was building one, and possibly two, 400,000-metric-ton ethanol plants based on its new TCX ethanol technology. It is also planning a 40,000-metric-ton demonstration plant in Clear Lake, Texas. Now the company says it is installing 200,000 metric tons of ethanol at its Nanjing complex as early as 2013. How? The company’s release merely said it would “modify and enhance its existing integrated acetyl facility.” This doesn’t say anything more about the nature of the technology than the company’s earlier line that TCX was based on its “acetyls technology.” However, the news promised at least the potential for new clues. The company started the acetic acid complex in 2007 with 600,000 metric tons of acetic acid capacity. It expanded the plant to 1.2 million metric tons using its AO Plus 2 acetic acid process. The company is planning to push that to 1.5 million tons using something called AO Plus 3. I called the company with a question: Would Celanese lose acetic acid capacity as a result of the ethanol project? This would tell me if a portion of the acetic capacity was being repurposed for ethanol. And that might indicate how closely related TCX technology is to methanol carbonylation into acetic acid. “We’re not disclosing that information,” Celanese spokesman Travis Jacobsen told me. Rats! He was kind enough to direct me to a website that Celanese has on the topic. Even that didn’t offer the kind of information I was looking for. My heart thumped a little when I saw a diagram with an ethylene arrow going into a box that said “acetyl technologies” and “ethanol technologies”. I wondered for a second if that meant oxidation, which has long been an alternative technology to carbonylation. Then I realized that the ethylene was probably just a reference the reaction to make vinyl acetate. Plus, Celanese clearly states over and over that the technology is syngas derived, so the building blocks we are looking for are clearly carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and perhaps methanol. Celanese’s ethanol technology remains a black box. My next step will be checking the patent literature for...

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Celanese Moves Forward Somewhat On Ethanol
Jan21

Celanese Moves Forward Somewhat On Ethanol

Celanese and the White House have made announcements regarding ethanol capacity Celanese is planning to build in China using its new technology. I’ve written about this on the blog before. The latest news on the topic is a little baffling, hopefully I’m sorting all that out in this post. Here’s an excerpt from Celanese’s announcement: DALLAS, Texas; NANJING and ZHUHAI, China (January 19, 2011) – Celanese Corporation (NYSE: CE), a global technology and specialty materials company, today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Celanese Far East Limited, has signed letters of intent to construct and operate industrial ethanol production facilities in Nanjing, China, at the Nanjing Chemical Industrial Park and in Zhuhai, China, at the Gaolan Port Economic Zone. Pending project approvals, Celanese could begin industrial ethanol production within the next 30 months with an initial nameplate capacity of 400,000 tons per year per plant with an initial investment of approximately USD$300 million per plant. The company is pursuing approval at two locations to ensure its ability to effectively grow with future demand. Earlier, Celanese had been saying that it was planning to build one or two 400,000 plants for $300 million apiece. It then would then have the choice of doubling capacity at one plant at a cost of less than the original investment. Or, it could build both plants and then expand both of them. It would seem from this release that it was moving forward with both of them. Not so. As the last sentence above alludes, with the interpretational help of a Celanese spokesman, one or two plants is still the plan. The MOU’s with the industrial parks still leaves open that possibility. In other words, Celanese can move forward at either Nanjing or Zhuhai or at both locations. It turns out the Chinese projects are among those deals being highlighted to coincide with Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit. Here’s an excerpt from the White House press release: Celanese -- Wison Group Memorandum of Understanding for Ethanol Production: Celanese Far East Co., a subsidiary of Celanese Corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas (Celanese), and Wison Group Holding Limited (Wison), will conclude a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction and operation of an industrial ethanol production facility in China.  Wison plans to invest in a coal gasification unit based on clean coal technology to produce synthesis gas per Celanese specs, and Celanese plans to invest approximately $650 million in an Ethanol Complex using the output from Wison as feed stock, and Celanese proprietary technology, to produce ethanol for industrial use, and potentially for fuel ethanol. This transaction is valued at approximately $815 million, with $50-80 million in...

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