Petrochemicals Lead $70 Billion in U.S. Projects Impacted by COVID-19 So Far this Year
The number of reported COVID-19 cases across the U.S. has been trending downward since early January, but new variants of the virus and a steady rise in deaths mean that many of the restrictions and recommendations on social interaction aren't going away. This is forcing companies, particularly those in the Chemical Processing and Oil & Gas industries, to make hard choices on which projects to continue, revive or halt. Since the beginning of the year, Industrial Info has added or updated the status of more than $70 billion worth of U.S.-based projects to have been affected by precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than one-third of the affected spending is attributed to the petrochemicals sector of the Chemical Processing Industry. OCI Beaumont LLC's (Nederland, Texas) proposed methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) unit addition at its methanol and ammonia plant in Nederland, Texas, has been placed on hold, pending a final investment decision. The project would add a 22,000-barrel-per-day, motor-grade MTG unit to the facility, which the company says achieved record production volumes in third-quarter 2020, despite a preemptive shutdown related to Hurricane Laura. For more information, see Industrial Info's project report.
PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited's (Bangkok, Thailand) proposed, multi-billion-dollar Belmont County ethylene plant in Shadyside, Ohio, which is designed to produce 1.5 million metric tons per year, is facing similar frustrations. The company already had pushed back a final investment decision on the project for several years prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and a company spokesperson acknowledged to National Public Radio (NPR) in September that it would not announce a decision in the first quarter of 2021.
Auttapol Rerkpiboon, the chief executive officer of PTT Global, recently told the Bangkok Post that a new feasibility study for the Belmont County ethylene plant will be conducted, which he does not expect to be finished before mid-2022 "at the soonest." For more information, see Industrial Info's project report.
Other big-ticket chemical projects have been more fortunate. Construction on LyondellBasell Industries NV's (NYSE:LYB) (Houston, Texas) $2.4 billion propylene oxide and tertiary butyl alcohol (PO/TBA) unit addition at its olefins facility in Channelview, Texas, was halted last March as the pandemic began to spread across the U.S., but has been gradually returning to its previous activity levels over the past few months. It will begin producing 1 billion pounds per year of PO and about 2.2 billion pounds per year of TBA, both of which will be used to produce oxyfuels, in the fourth quarter of 2022, more than one year later than originally scheduled. For more information, see Industrial Info's project report and November 23, 2020, article - LyondellBasell Slowly Resumes Work on Texas PO/TBA Project.
One of the largest projects in the Oil & Gas Industry to face substantial setbacks is Cheniere Energy Incorporated's (NYSE:LNG) (Houston) third-stage Corpus Christi Mid-Scale LNG Liquefaction Plant in Gregory, Texas, which is designed to produce 9.5 million metric tons per year from seven trains. KBR Incorporated (NYSE:KBR) (Houston, Texas) quit the project last summer when it became clear that commodity prices and pandemic-related conditions were a long way from real improvement. But Cheniere has continued to secure offtake agreements, despite the setbacks. For more information, see Industrial Info's project report.
"Make no mistake, Corpus Christi Stage 3 is shovel-ready and one of the most cost-competitive LNG projects worldwide," said Jack Fusco, the chief executive officer of Cheniere, in November. "But we are committed to capital discipline, and we'll only sanction that project when it meets or exceeds our financial capital investment parameters." He said that the company already has 85% of Corpus Christi Stage 3's product under contract, but is targeting a 90% level before making a final investment decision.
In the power-generation sector, NOVI Energy (Novi, Michigan) recently placed on hold its proposed natural gas-fired, combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant in Charles City, Virginia, about 25 miles southeast of Richmond. The plant is designed to generate 1,060 megawatts (MW) from a pair of combustion turbines and a steam turbine, all from General Electric (NYSE:GE). Construction had been set to begin in second-quarter 2020, but the start date was pushed back repeatedly during the pandemic and is now uncertain.
The NOVI project was dealt a blow in December, when Virginia's State Corporation Commission rejected Virginia Natural Gas Incorporated's (Virginia Beach, Virginia) proposed expansion of its pipeline infrastructure, which would have supplied the project with feedstock, according to various news outlets. For more information, see Industrial Info's project report.
One of the largest manufacturing projects to chalk up progress following a string of delays is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (NYSE:FCAU) (London, England) estimated $1.7 billion assembly plant at its Mack Engine Plant Complex in Detroit, Michigan. The city's first new assembly plant in nearly 30 years is set to begin producing the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, a large sports utility vehicle, at the end of this quarter, with details on a plug-in hybrid version set to be announced later this year. For more information, see Industrial Info's project report.