Pemex has begin running its steam crackers at 100% and plans to increase its polyethylene run rates over the next two months in the wake of improved ethane feedstock availability, sources with the state-owned energy producer said this week.
The improved production coincides with a planned maintenance set to be undertaken in mid-May by fellow Mexican polymer producer Braskem-Idesa, the sources said. The planned maintenance will free up ethane produced by Pemex and typically provided to Braskem-Idesa on contract, allowing the former to us the feed internally, the sources said.
Pemex’s 20-year supply contract with Braskem-Idesa calls for the delivery of 66,000 b/d of ethane for use in cracking at the Etileno XXI petrochemical complex in Veracruz, with the resulting ethylene used to produce various grades of Braskem-Idesa polyethylene. Since beginning deliveries to Braskem-Idesa in early 2016 when Etileno XXI began production, Pemex has seen its own ethylene and PE production decrease in line with the reduces feed available for internal consumption, the company has said.
So far this year, Pemex has seen its ethane production fall off, in line with late-2017 internal company analysis that predicted a 20% dropoff (from producing around 100,000 b/d to just 80,000 b/d) through the first two quarters of 2018, company sources have said. The issue stems from lower wellhead ethane output in southern Mexico related to elevated nitrogen levels and compression issues having a negative effect on overall NGL production in the region.

Pemex countered this reduced ethane production with spot shipments from the US through May, coinciding with the Braskem-Idesa maintenance freeing up stock for internal use. Pemex recently issued a tender for ethane imports to cover the next three-plus years to be used only for the production of ethylene at Pemex’s crackers in Cangrejera and Morelos, company sources said.
Overall, Pemex’s ethylene production sits at 82,482 mt through February this year, down 13,283 mt (13.9%) when compared with the first two months of last year and down 82,114 mt (49.9%) when compared with January-February of 2016, prior to beginning to supply Braskem-Idesa, according to company . In a related development, Pemex has seen its total PE production fall to 45,616 in the first two months of 2018, down 9,904 mt (17.8%) when compared with the January and February of 2017. Pemex’s current PE production dropoff was more pronounced compared with the first two months of 2016, falling 61,663 mt (54.5%).