MEXICO CITY - The Mexican plastics industry seems to have come off lightly from a devastating series of explosions that tore apart the country's biggest natural gas processing complex in late July. In what was one of the worst accidents ever suffered by Mexico's state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, a propane gas leak during maintenance at the Cactus complex at Reforma, Mexico, set off three explosions July 26.
The blasts, which left seven dead and nine injured, destroyed two giant natural gas processing plants each handling 500 million cubic feet per day, as well as the pipework linking them with the rest of the complex. Cactus alone processed a third of Mexico's natural gas output, according to Pemex.
Full output of propylene and polypropylene were affected when Pemex decided to halt supply of 12,000 barrels per day of propane gas to the propylene plant at the Morelos petrochemical complex at Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.
``Polypropylene is affected be-cause the supply of propane for the plant at Morelos complex requires some of the propane being used for LP gas,'' said Mexico City petrochemical and plastics industry consultant Eduardo de la Tijera of Texne SA de CV.
``In the case of polypropylene, there may have been some difficulties in supplying large quantities or 100 percent [of orders]. But Pemex has already arranged for imports of propane,'' added de la Tijera, whose firm works closely with the New York consultancy Chem Systems Inc.
De la Tijera said Pemex is the most important supplier of polyethylene resins in Mexico, and perhaps a close second to the private firm Indelpro in PP resin.
Only half of Pemex's ethane output of 7.92 billion pounds is devoted to petrochemical production, with the rest reinjected into the gas system. PE would feel little effect as more ethane would be devoted to petrochemical use in the medium term, he said.
Meanwhile, Mexico's national chemical industry association reported that a meeting with major private resin producers who get raw materials from Pemex revealed little serious concern about supply.
Early estimates put the cost of replacing the wrecked Cactus plants at more than $250 million. Repairs may take 18 months.