Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Celanese Corp., the world’s biggest producer of acetic acid, said it may build a new plant to make the chemical in China or the U.S. because of the countries’ inexpensive raw materials.
“We’re very seriously evaluating the possibility of a new facility rather than an expansion,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Weidman said yesterday in a telephone interview.
The cost advantage of making acid from Chinese coal or U.S. natural gas “is very compelling,” prompting the Dallas-based company to consider new construction, Weidman said in the interview.
A decision will be made “over the next couple quarters,” said Mark Oberle, a spokesman.
Celanese is diverting some of its acid-making capacity to ethanol production in Nanjing, China, so it needs to expand to maintain at least a 30 percent share of the 11 million ton annual market for acetic acid, Oberle said. Celanese spent about $350 million over three years to build the Nanjing complex, he said.
Celanese plants in Nanjing and Clear Lake, Texas, which can each make 1.2 million tons of acid a year, may be expanded to 1.5 million tons, Oberle said. New technology would allow a greenfield factory to produce as much as 1.8 million tons, he said. A Singapore plant that makes 600,000 tons of acid a year from oil is not a candidate for expansion, Weidman said.
In addition to advantaged feedstocks, Celanese will consider any new plant’s proximity to customers, Oberle said. The U.S. is a “great location” to serve Europe, and China is in the midst of rapid Asian growth, he said.
Celanese fell 2 percent to $41.34 yesterday in New York. The shares have gained 0.4 percent this year.
--Editors: Simon Casey, Jasmina Kelemen
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