Lake Charles, Louisiana (USA) – Sasol today announced plans to construct the world’s first commercial ethylene tetramerization unit, capable of producing over 100,000 metric tons per year of combined 1-octene and 1-hexene, at its Louisiana production site in Lake Charles.
This first-of-a-kind unit will be built in Southwest Louisiana and will be located inside Sasol’s existing Lake Charles Chemical Complex. The tetramerization unit will expand the facility’s workforce by nearly 10%, employing an additional 36 full-time employees and 12 contract employees. The expanded capacity is also expected to add stability to the existing employee base as it will further integrate the products manufactured at the plant site.
Construction will commence in 2011, and the plant will reach beneficial operation in mid-2013. During peak construction periods, up to 500 contract employees with skills in welding, pipefitting, carpentry, electrical and instrumentation, as well as laborers, will be needed.
“We’re pleased to be selected to construct and operate this unique tetramerization process. Sasol’s willingness to expand operations in Southwest Louisiana is a vote of confidence in our local employees, service providers and our state. We are particularly thankful to Governor Bobby Jindal, our local legislative delegation and Louisiana Economic Development for the support they have provided to help make this opportunity a reality,” said Mike Thomas, Sasol North America President.
The unit will utilize Sasol’s proprietary technology to convert ethylene to 1-octene and 1-hexene. This unique process was developed in Sasol’s R&D laboratories in South Africa, and selectively produces alpha olefins required for the high growth polymer markets. Engineers and scientists from Sasol North America participated with an international team to design the unit, which will utilize the new technology on an industrial manufacturing scale.
“This tetramerization unit at our Lake Charles complex is supporting our strategy to further beneficiate our ethylene produced at the site and is in line with our view to develop our integrated multi asset sites”, said Fleetwood Grobler, Managing Director of Sasol Olefins & Surfactants, the international holding company of Sasol North America.
With current production of over 350,000 metric tons per year, Sasol is a major producer of comonomer range alpha olefins. According to Alan Field, Managing Director of Sasol Solvents, “The additional capacity to be built at the Lake Charles Complex will help Sasol’s global customer base achieve its long-term polymer and elastomer growth prospects, and the investment reflects our confidence in the competiveness of the US petrochemicals industry.”
1-octene and 1-hexene are used as comonomers in the manufacture of linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and elastomers. The products impart special characteristics of elasticity and strength in plastic used in consumer products such as food packaging, bags, toys, automotive interiors, power cable coatings and more.