See also refineries.
Following debottlenecking in 1998 and early 1999 capacity in Clyde, New South Wales production has increased 120,00 to 180,000 tonnes/y. Basell Australia also has another 70,000 tonnes per year capacity in Geelong, Victoria at the Shell refinery site. The other polypropylene producer in Australia is Qenos with whom Basell shares 90% of the domestic market.
Basell Australia manufactures polypropylene resins from refinery gases at two petroleum refineries operated by the Shell Company of Australia at Geelong, Victoria (capacity about 5.3 million tonnes) and at Clyde, New South Wales (capacity about 3.2 million tonnes). In 1997, the plant also purchases refined propylene from Orica's (previously ICI) plant at Botany.
The company produces aromatics and solvents (their 20 000 tonne alkylates plant was closed in 1992).
The Geelong plant has a capacity of about 60 000 tonnes being expanded by 30 000 tonnes by 2000 to 90 000 tonnes and Clyde about 80 000 tonnes of polypropylene. It supplies about 45 per cent of the Australian market of 180 000 tonnes shared Kemcor that operates two plants - one at Botany and another at Altona formerly owned by Hoechst (each about 45 000 tonne capacity). The Clyde plant is being expanded to 130 000 tonnes and possibly extended to 170 000 tonnes by 1997 on closure of the Orica polypropylene plant at Botany NSW. (Note possible closure of the Clyde refinery.
Turnover in polypropylene in 1992 was $120m with exports of about 50 000 tonnes.
Shell, as the previous operator of the polyolefin plants, has publicly promoted their assessment of the economics of polypropylene manufacture compared to overseas suggesting Australia is not very competitive. Nevertheless, despite being at modest scale petroleum refineries, the plants are being expanded and with substantial export sales (around 50 per cent) helped by a low opportunity value for the propylene refinery by-product. The reputation of Shell and Montedison quality and efficiency will see Basell Australia's focussed position remain as the export-oriented component of Australia's petrochemical industry.
In July 1998, Basell announced it would sell its Australian and European plastic film business (including Shorko Australia operating a plant at Wodonga NSW) to US-based AET. Shorko is expanding its film business from 11 000 to 24 000 tonnes per year.
In July 2002, Shorko was purchased by Israel's Dor Chemicals for US$24 million. Its production is about 20 000 tonnes pa valued at US$25 million.
In December 1999, Shell announced it would aim to increase returns from its chemical business to 15 per cent (in line with oil and gas) and sell up to one-half of its interest in Basell.
Shell and Mobil plan to merge their refining interests in Australia.
The world polypropylene production capacity is 31 million tonnes in 1999 of which one quarter each is produced in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific excluding Japan. The market is growing by about 3 per cent per year.
By March 2000, the future of the Clyde refinery will be announced given speculation about its closure. The polypropylene business would then be reliant on propylene produced at the Kurnell refinery, processed at the Qenos Matraville plant (legacy of Orica's now closed polypropylene business) and piped Clyde (then an industrial park?).
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