Pemex Invites Companies to Fenix Discussions

The petrochemical unit (PPQ) of Mexico's state oil company Pemex is inviting private oil companies worldwide to help define and implement the first phase of the US$3bn Fenix petrochemical project.

The first phase is the construction and operation of a US$2bn petrochemical plant, and the second phase an aromatics plant that would cost up to US$1bn.

Under the arrangement, Pemex would serve as a minority partner in a joint venture or condominium arrangement led by private oil companies responsible for funding and executing the project, Abraham Klip, VP of planning at PPQ, said.

PPQ will directly select project associates "in a transparent manner," he said. The project team would then launch tenders for EPC work, and may eventually collaborate with lending institutions to ensure financing.

PPQ has established an "ambitious project timeline," and will work over the next month with interested companies to shape the project and define a chronology that meets all players' needs. "Right now we are determining interest, and how each potential associate will want to participate," Klip said.

PPQ has submitted draft terms of reference, a project development agreement and economic models to participants for review and possible modification. Considering participants may be lured by similar projects in other countries, PPQ is working with interested parties to make the project as interesting - and profitable - as possible, Klip said.

The makeup of Fenix's project team will largely dictate which technologies are employed, Jorge Buhler Vidal, director of the US' Polyolefins Consulting, said. "If you have a partner or partners that have their own in-house technologies, well, it's almost a foregone conclusion that that's what they would use." Declining to specify interested companies by name, Klip said they were major Mexican and international oil firms from the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Based on previously expressed interest, Buhler Vidal said that Canada's Nova, the US' Dow Chemical and Exxon Mobil, Saudi Arabia's Sabic, and "maybe" Spain's Repsol YPF could be participating in Fenix discussions. "This is a great opportunity for somebody to go into the market. It's hard to go into an entirely new market, as you seldom get that opportunity," he said. "I see this as more import for someone like Sabic than for someone like Dow, because Dow has plants just north of the border."

The US$2bn plan entails developing an olefins petrochemical plant, probably in Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf coast, capable of producing 1 million tons (mt) of olefins and 2mt of derivatives annually. Fenix's second project, which is not yet in the planning stage, entails investing US$800mn-1bn in an aromatic center, possibly in the same location as the olefin facility. The overall idea is to reduce Mexico's estimated US$4bn annual petrochemical imports. "Fenix is a key part of the strategy I have defined for petrochemicals, [which is to] modernize what's already there, take the most productive processes to worldwide production levels, shut down what is not profitable or is obsolete, and stop having to invest large quantities in major maintenance; therefore all the new [production] is with Fenix," PPQ president Rafael Beverido previously told BNamericas.

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