Lotte Chemical’s US ethylene plant to start operations this month

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : May 10, 2019 - 15:44
  • Updated : May 10, 2019 - 15:44

Lotte Chemical said Friday that its ethylene cracker complex in the US will start commercial operations this month, expressing hopes of expanding its global presence and diversifying its ingredients for petrochemical products.

The $3.1 billion ECC project is a joint venture with Axiall Corp., which the Westlake Chemical Corp. acquired in 2016. Lotte owns 88 percent of the plant, while Westlake holds the remainder. 

Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin (center right) and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (center left), attend the opening ceremony for Lotte Chemical’s ethylene cracker complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Friday. (Yonhap)

“We will take on a crucial role for the future of our company and South Korea’s petrochemical industry, by taking pride in the fact that we are the first Korean petrochemical firm to build and operate the first world-class petrochemical facility in the US,” Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin said at the plant’s commencement ceremony in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Friday.

The ceremony was also attended by Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and other high-ranking Lotte officials. They were joined by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Westlake Chemical CEO Albert Chao and US Ambassador Harry Harris.

The construction of the plant was completed late last year and Lotte has already test-run production, the firm said in a statement.

It added that the US plant can produce 1 million tons of ethylene a year, boosting the firm’s annual global ethylene output capacity to 4.5 million tons.

It plans to use locally produced shale gas to produce ethylene, as a means of diversifying the key ingredients it uses to make petrochemical products. It aims to replace naphtha, which is derived from crude oil and used to make ethylene.

Naphtha has been used more commonly to make ethylene, though shale gas is known to be cheaper and more stably produced.

Though US President Donald Trump was unable to attend the ceremony in person, he sent a message calling the plant “a proof of solidity in the US-South Korea alliance.”

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon echoed Trump, saying the plant would promote simultaneous growth of the allies’ chemical industries and bring energy cooperation to a new level.

Lotte Chemical signed deals to build the plant in 2014 and launched construction the same year. The complex is about 1.02 square meters.

At home, Lotte Chemical runs two naphtha plants, which have a combined annual ethylene production capacity of 2.2 million tons.