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Braskem Idesa JV sees US ethane imports reach record high in September

Braskem Idesa (BI), the Brazilian-Mexican joint venture that owns the Nanchital petrochemical complex in Veracruz State, reported recently that it had seen ethane import volumes climb to an all-time high in September of this year.

According to an interim report from Braskem, the Brazilian partner in the joint venture, BI imported 22,400 barrels per day (bpd) of ethane from the US in the month of September. Delivery volumes have climbed as a result of the expansion of the Fast Track project, a new ethane import terminal in Laguna de Pajaritos, a section of the port of Coatazacoalcos in Veracruz.

The Fast Track project is designed to make more imported ethane available to BI’s polyethylene plant in Coatazacoalcos. The expansion brought the terminal’s capacity up to 25,000 bpd, it added.

The joint venture widened the scope of the Fast Track project in light of a decline in the volume of ethane delivered by Mexico’s national oil company (NOC) Pemex, Braskem stated. This move appears to have borne fruit, as BI is now on track to see the volume of ethane imported from the US average 18,600 bpd in the third quarter of 2021, up by about 113% on the second-quarter figure of 8,800 bpd and more than double the figure reported for the third quarter of last year.

Deliveries are expected to keep rising, Braskem added, since the joint venture intends to expand Fast Track again, raising its capacity up to 35,000 bpd by the second quarter of 2022. This second round of expansion may allow BI to source around half of its feedstock from the US, with the remaining half coming from Pemex, it said.

Ethane is the primary feedstock of the joint venture’s polyethylene facility in Coatzacoalcos. The plant is capable of turning out up to 1.05mn tonnes per year (tpy) of LDPE and HDPE (low-density and high-density polyethylene).

In the past, BI has sourced most of its feedstock from Pemex. In recent years, though, the NOC has been unable to uphold its commitment under a 20-year agreement signed in 2010 to supply 66,000 bpd of ethane. The parties revised that agreement in late September of this year, and as a result the state-owned firm will only be responsible for supplying 30,000 bpd of ethane until BI finishes its new terminal in the second half of 2024.

Pemex also agreed in September to extend guaranteed ethane deliveries into early 2025, in the event that BI encounters delays in the licensing process. Additionally, it agreed to give the joint venture the right of first refusal for the purchase of its surplus ethane.