In March, Stepan Company reported that it has closed on a pending agreement with BASF Mexicana to acquire, for an undisclosed sum, their surfactant production facility in Ecatepec, Mexico State, with 50,000 metric tons of capacity.
In January, Clariant announced completion of the expansion of its industrial facility in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz State, including the production of surfactants. The investment, begun four years ago, was labeled as a $20 million effort, with an effect of increasing production at the plant by 15 percent. Coatzacoalcos is a major Gulf Coast port specialized in petrochemicals.
Non-ionic surfactant production at these facilities would use ethylene oxide feedstock produced by the $5.2 billion Braskem/Idesa Ethylene XXI cracker at Coatzacoalcos. The cracker uses ethane feedstock supplied by Pemex under long-term contract to the plant. The facility has a 196,000 metric ton per year capacity for EO. Brazil-based Braskem is the largest petrochemical producer in Latin America, and Grupo Idesa is a large Mexican petrochemical producer.
As a result of the recent shortage, Pemex has begun importing ethane from the United States at a higher price than that of domestic production. If Pemex passes on the ethane cost increase to Braskem Idesa, then client surfactant makers may face higher production costs.
Neither Clariant nor Stepan were able to respond to deadline requests for information on the surfactant market in Mexico.
Platt’s reported that Enterprise Products Partners’ Morgan’s Point, Texas, plant is exporting ethane to Mexico under a six-month contract. The analysts also reported that ethane export prices were up about 15 percent in December.
BASF in February declared force majeure on its U.S.-produced purified ethylene oxide due to an unexpected equipment failure, causing the shutdown of its ethylene oxide unit at its site in Geismar, La., ICIS reported.
At the time of the initial investment announcement for the Clariant expansion, Michael Willome, then the global head of the company’s Industrial & Consumer Specialties business, said in a company statement, “We chose Coatzacoalcos as the best location for this new production unit in order to integrate the operations of our ICS business unit in one place, taking into account its strategic geographical position, in between the two sites producing raw materials in the country.”
Mexico is a strong consumer of paints and coatings, led by its automotive industry, the largest in Latin America. With a gross domestic product expansion of 1.5 percent in 2017, construction growth and industrial expansion also are helping to drive demand for architectural and industrial coatings.
The International Monetary Fund has bumped up its 2018 prediction for Mexico’s GDP to 2.3 percent, and predicts further strengthening to 2.7 percent in 2019 and beyond. At the same time, Mexico’s inflation has dropped from nearly 5 percent in 2017 to close to 3 percent this year.