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BP explores sale of Alabama petrochemical facility

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

BP has announced it will market for sale its Decatur, Alabama, petrochemicals complex as part of a broader reorganisation of the company’s global petrochemicals business.

BP’s refocused petrochemicals strategy will pursue a competitively advantaged portfolio through world-scale, low-cost facilities that utilise BP proprietary technology including the production of purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, a key raw material in the production of polyester.

“BP’s world-leading technologies and global positions allow us to compete in today’s highly competitive marketplace,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, Chief Executive of BP’s global downstream business. “Our strategy is to significantly improve the cash breakeven performance of the business, enhancing earnings potential and making it more resilient to bottom-of-cycle conditions. We look to have a portfolio with BP’s world-leading technology resulting in highly efficient production of PTA in key markets around the world.”

BP plans to spend US$200 million to upgrade its Cooper River, S.C., plant and its sister facility in Geel, Belgium. These plants are the largest PTA-producing sites in the Americas and Europe, respectively. The investment will allow the two facilities to lower operating costs, improve reliability and reduce emissions. Earlier in 2015, BP also started up its new Zhuhai 3 unit in Guangdong Province, China. Using BP’s latest technology and capable of producing up to 1.25 million tpy of PTA, Zhuhai 3 is the world’s largest single-train PTA production unit as well as being one of the largest and most efficient PTA production units in the world.

While BP’s Decatur complex no longer fits with this strategy, the facility has been a major contributor to BP’s US petrochemicals business for many years: it produces chemicals that essential for the production of thousands of items, from plastic water bottles to flat-screen televisions.

Located on 1000 acres in Northern Alabama, the complex can produce one million tpy of PTA, as well as paraxylene (PX), a raw material for PTA production. The site also is the only commercial manufacturer of naphthalene dicarboxylate (NDC), a specialty chemical used in new-generation polyesters and resins used to make LCD flat-panel displays, ultra-thin data storage tape and other products. Of the five operating units on the Decatur site, three produce PTA, one makes PX and the other makes NDC.

“The decision to explore a sale of this facility was not taken lightly. It has been a significant part of our company and of the Decatur community for a very long time,” said Rita Griffin, COO of BP Global Petrochemicals. “We believe the site - and its more than 400 employees - would be a very attractive addition to the portfolio of another operator. We’re determined to find a buyer who will recognise its value and keep it a viable and vibrant part of the region for years to come.”

Edited from press release by

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