“MOL Group has grown from being a domestic champion to become one of CEE’s strongest companies. The petrochemical value chain is very complex and diverse, but opportunities are there to ensure further growth for MOL Downstream. This includes identifying attractive and sustainable captive markets for refinery products”
Krisztina Szabó Petrényiné, Petrochemical Product Line Group Manager, MOL Group
Tell us about the future initiatives from MOL to ensure integration of the value chain?
•Further upgrade the value chain
•Leverage CEE market opportunities
•Provide sustainable and attractive captive markets for refinery products.
What’s MOL’s view on polyolefin market growth potential in the CEE region, and how does this compare to the rest of Europe?
The CEE region is going to drive polyolefin demand growth in Europe. Plastic consumption per capita in CEE is still far below the Western Europe (WE) average. Plastic processing companies are coming to CEE to leverage this opportunity. The increase in demand for plastic is being driven by two main segments: automotive and packaging. The amount of plastic used in cars is increasing as the demand for lightweight cars grows. In packaging, substitution of glass and increased demand for ready-made food are the main growth factors.
The European polyolefin business will face challenges as the dominant WE market shows limited growth: flat for LDPE, 1-2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for other products. The Central European growth forecast is slightly worse than the region was averaging over the 2000-13 period but is still above 3 %.
Tell us more about your Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) project.
At our site in the Slovakian capital, we have modernized the LDPE units with new, state-of-the-art LDPE-4 unit. The new line is due to start at the end of 2015.
Overall, we’ve invested more than EUR 200 million in the production of LDPE and around another EUR 100 million in related infrastructure.
The state-of-the art polymer plant aims to replace the older LDPE units. However the most important development will come from increasing operational efficiency and the introduction of new high quality film grades. The high technical capability of the new LDPE unit will allow for full utilization of its steam cracking capabilities. It will be able to produce nearly 30 types of polyethylene, increasing overall production. With this extended product portfolio, MOL Group’s petrochemicals business can acquire new customers while benefitting from significantly reduced energy requirements for production.
What are the key trends that you see on both a regional and global level and how are MOL responding to them?
Pure naphtha feedstock will lose a significant part of its market share as most naphtha crackers shift to LPG-naphtha mixed feedstock. These gains in market share will be made in spite of competition from ethane. The importation of ethane into Europe is expected to increase by up to 4 Mtpa which is equal to 21 % of EU coastal capacity.
However the low price of petroleum products may delay further market growth for ethane. The high capital cost of technology means the level of methanol (mostly coal-based) conversion is not expected to grow quickly.
Imports of polyolefins into Western Europe are not expected to change in the long term, though a strong US dollar has resulted in a major drop in volumes.
Inter-regional olefin trading volumes will be higher than they were in the past but still nowhere near the size of global demand.
A 4.3% increase in demand for propylene is forecast – higher than that of ethylene. To meet this demand will require investment to on-purpose propylene production (by up to 30% by 2025) as ethane-based SC developments produce negligible amounts of propylene.
To be able to adapt to the fast-changing environment, we are constantly reinventing ourselves.
For example, we are continually working to improve the competitiveness of olefin production. Shifting petrochemicals feedstock towards products with a lighter composition is one of the possibilities.
We are also looking at adding multiple interesting and intermediate chemicals into the value chain in the future.
The major investment into the LDPE-4 unit at the Bratislava site and the butadiene extraction plant at Tiszaújváros will significantly strengthen the petrochemical segment of the Group. We have also invested USD 150 million in the extraction of 130 KT/y butadiene which will come on stream in September this year.
Our focus is on further improving our services to our customers to help them with their own businesses, and we aim to be the strategic supplier of choice in Central Europe.