Celanese Corp. plans to build in China, Texas

By Holly Jessen | October 14, 2010
Posted Nov. 11, 2010

A Texas-based company is making plans to build ethanol plants in China and Texas for chemical applications and other industrial uses. Celanese Corp. wants to build one or two coal-to-industrial ethanol plants in China and one natural gas-to-industrial ethanol plant in Clear Lake, Texas.

Over the years, the company has worked continually to optimize its acetyls technologies, Gretchen Rosswurm, director of global communications told EPM. Now, Celanese has developed a new process that uses elements of that technology along with new advancements to make industrial ethanol out of basic hydrocarbons, including natural gas, coal and pet coke. "The outcome of this effort is an advanced ethanol technology which we believe is economically advantaged versus existing commercial processes to produce ethanol," she said.

Ethanol can be used in chemical and industrial applications for things such as manufacturing paints, coatings, inks and pharmaceuticals. Celanese Corp. uses industrial ethanol to make ethyl acetate, Rosswurm said. "While we are focusing on industrial uses at this time, we are also exploring opportunities to apply this technology to fuel ethanol applications in regions where the commercial environment is supportive," said Dave Weidman, chairman and CEO.

The demand for ethanol for chemical applications in China is about 1 billion gallons yearly and growing rapidly at 8 to 10 percent a year, the company said. Initially, the plant or plants in China will have capacities of 134 MMgy. To meet future demand, the capacities can be doubled at significantly less than the original cost to build the facilities. It's not known when construction will start on the Chinese plants, Rosswurm said. Celanese projects that construction will be complete 30 months after project approvals are granted.

When completed, the Texas production unit will produce 13.5 MMgy of industrial ethanol for either internal use or merchant demand. The company will also continue technology development efforts at that site. Celanese Corp. expects construction to begin in mid-2011 with the goal of completing it by the end of 2012.

Celanese manufactures specialty materials and chemical products in North America, Europe and Asia. Although it is based in Dallas, about 73 percent of the company's 2009 net sales of $5.1 billion was generated outside of North America.