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February 15, 2017

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Enterprise to Expand Isobutylene Production

Enterprise Products Partners plans to construct a new isobutane dehydrogenation plant in Texas with capability to produce 425,000 tons per year of isobutylene. Isobutylene is a building block for polyisobutylene (PIB), which is used as a chemical intermediate in the manufacturing of lubricant additives and as a base stock in lubricants.

The company said the isobutane dehydrogenation plant should help meet market demand where supplies have been reduced. Enterprise said it will increase its production of both high-purity and low-purity isobutylene. 

Supported by long-term contracts with customers, Enterprise’s project in Mont Belvieu is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019. The company said the plant’s isobutylene will be used as feedstock for underutilized capacity at octane enhancement and petrochemical plants downstream of the hydrogenation unit.

In 2010, Enterprise acquired a high-purity isobutylene plant out of bankruptcy from Bigler LP, located on the Houston Ship Channel. The plant can produce more than 300 million pounds of HPIB annually. Bigler LP built its HPIB plant in coordination with BASF and started it up in March 2009.

Consultant Geeta S. Agashe, president of Geeta Agashe & Associates LLC, explained that polyisobutenes are typically produced as oligomers of isobutylene and therefore are commonly referred to as PIB – polyisobutylene or polyisobutene.

“Cationic vinyl polymerization is a way of making polymers from small isobutylene molecules or monomers, which contain carbon-carbon double bonds,” Agashe told Lube Report. “Its primary use is for making polyisobutylene.”

She noted that PIB is primarily used in products such as fuel and lube additives, as viscosity modifiers, and in two-stroke motor oil, monograde engine oils, marine oils, gear and transmission fluids and metalworking fluids, among other applications. “Most importantly, as bright stock supply is declining due to Group I plant shutdowns, PIB is putting up its hand as an alternative,” she added.

In the lubricants space, she said, PIB is supplied by players such as Ineos, BASF, Lubrizol, Daelim Industries, Infineum, Texas Petrochemicals and Chevron Oronite. “I think Enterprise must be supplying {isobutylene] to one of these players as a feed stock for PIB production,” Agashe said. “We have not seen Enterprise directly in our space thus far.”