BASF eyes new propylene plant along Gulf Coast

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — German chemical titan BASF SE is evaluating plans to spend more than $1.4 billion to build a propylene plant somewhere along the Gulf Coast.

Kurt Bock, chairman of the company's board of executive directors, said Friday that a feedstock of cheap natural gas would give BASF a price advantage, and would allow it to stop buying so much of the building block for plastics and chemicals from others.

"We want to further process this basic product in North America and significantly expand our business," Bock said in a speech to shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Mannheim, Germany. "Propylene is needed, for example, for coatings, detergents, or superabsorbents for diapers."

Bock said the plant would convert natural gas to methanol and then to propylene, which he described as a new technology.

The world's largest chemical company said the plant would be its single largest investment ever. It didn't give details about where it would build, but chemical makers have flooded into south Louisiana and the Texas coast to take advantage of cheap natural gas being extracted from shale formations through hydraulic fracturing. Tens of billions of dollars' worth of projects have been announced in Louisiana, although not all will be built.

"With shale gas and shale oil, we also have access to cheap energy and raw materials for our production," Bock said.

In October, BASF made a similar announcement that it and the Norwegian company Yara were jointly exploring a "world scale" ammonia plant along the Gulf Coast. Like with the propylene announcement, BASF said it would like to make its own ammonia for use in chemicals rather than buy it from others.

BASF already has more than 2,000 employees in Louisiana, with a major site at Geismar. It also has plants with more than 100 employees in the Texas cities of Beaumont, Freeport, Pasadena and Port Arthur, as well as one in McIntosh, Alabama.

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