WPC 2019: YPF sees Argentina petrochemical production hub within next decade

00:29 AM | March 23, 2019 | Robert Westervelt

Argentina has the potential to create a petrochemical cluster within the next decade, says Federico Veller, chemicals executive manager at YPF (Buenos Aires), Argentina’s state-owned energy company. YPF hopes to develop the Vaca Muerta formation shale gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) potential into significant petrochemical investment to serve South American markets.

Veller told attendees at the Latin American Petrochemical Summit on 22 March, part of the IHS Markit World Petrochemical Conference (WPC) in San Antonio, Texas, that YPF was studying world-scale investment in ethylene, propane dehydrogenation (PDH), methanol, and derivatives, including polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). The company is also evaluating expansion of urea.

“We strongly believe that in the time frame of the next five to ten years that a petrochemical cluster could be developed in Argentina,” Veller says. Partners are being sought, he says. “The opportunities are so big that it would be impossible to be developed by only one player,” Veller says. “We need the effort of several companies.” YPF hopes to help “catalyze this investment,” he adds.

South America today has a significant petrochemical supply deficit. In 2018, the region imported 7 million metric tons/year (MMt/y) of urea, 1.1 MMt/y of PE, 800,000 metric tons/year of methanol, and 300,000 metric tons/year of PP, Veller says. New petrochemical production would largely serve regional demand needs although there is potential for global exports of methanol, he adds.

YPF is evaluating Argentina’s first large-scale liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility to capitalize on the expected surge in shale gas production from Vaca Muerta. That investment is needed to support the upstream, midstream, and infrastructure development needed to ensure petrochemical feedstock supply.