Petrochemical plants avoid mad scramble for D6 gas

Vol 12, PW 26 (04 Jun 09) Midstream & Downstream

Most industries are lining up to get a slice of D6 gas, but not, it seems, the petrochemicals industry.

Instead of clamouring for its fair share, officials in the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, contacted by this report, are supremely relaxed at the prospect of getting only a small quantity, or nothing at all. Why are they so relaxed “D6 gas is â€کlean’,â€‌ says a senior source in the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals.

“It is not suitable as feedstock for petrochemicals.â€‌ That’s good news for others, because after carving up D6 gas production for fertiliser plants, power stations and state-run gas retail companies, the oil ministry is now asking the petrochemicals industry what it needs and on May 22 wrote to the Department of Chemicals asking for a detailed breakdown of who needs how much.

“Petrochemical companies have been asked to detail their requirements,â€‌ adds our source in the chemicals department. “Most of them will tell us they need it for captive power generation only.

â€‌ The problem with D6 gas, he says, is that it contains no C2 (ethane) or C3 (butane) and can’t be used as feedstock for ethylene – a raw material used to produce high-density polyethylene and linear low-density polyethylene, used in the production of pipes and other plastics products. “Gas can also be used in some petrochemical plants as fuel for heating,â€‌ adds an industry expert.

Most petrochemical plants are in any case located within refinery complexes making naphtha a logistically easier feedstock to use. Disinterest in D6 gas among petrochemical companies will surprise many, not least those that drew up the infamous Gas Utilisation Policy.

In April last year when cabinet ministers first discussed the policy it was decided that petrochemical plants and LPG fractionators figure second after the first priority: fertiliser plants, and much higher than power plants, gas retail companies and other industries.