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Sumitomo mulls Saudi PO plant

By Patrick Raleigh, UT On-line/news editorTokyo-Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd has penciled in a propylene oxide plant as a possible option at its planned joint venture refinery/petrochemicals complex in Saudi Arabia, with Saudi government-owned Saudi Aramco.In May, the groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning a joint feasibility study for a $4300-million project to construct and operate the complex in the Red Sea town of Rabigh. Under the deal, construction would begin at the start of 2005, with production due to commence in late 2008.As well as petrol and heavy oil products, the complex will produce olefin monomers-including 900 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) of propylene-as well as 1300 ktpa of ethylene, polyethylene (750-900 ktpa) and polypropylene (700 ktpa). Production will also encompass “olefin derivatives, including possibly propylene oxide,” Sumitomo said in its 2004 annual report.The plant would be based on Sumitomo’s proprietary by-product-free technology, which uses cumene hydroperoxide oxidising agent to convert propylene to PO, according to the Japanese group. Sumitomo first applied this technology at a 200-ktpa PO plant in Chiba, Japan, which started up in 2003. The group has previously signaled plans for a similar unit in Asia within the next three years to meet a forecast rise in PO demand in Asia, excluding Japan, from 1000 ktpa in 2004, to 1300 ktpa in 2007 and 1650 ktpa by 2010. Sumitomo supplies PO via Nihon Oxirane Co., a 60:40 joint venture between the Japanese group and minority partner Lyondell Chemical Co. Nihon Oxirane also operates a 180-ktpa PO/SM (styrene monomer) unit in Japan. “

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