Lyondell eyes 'very large' investment at Houston refinery site after closure

An aerial view of LyondellBasell-Houston Refining is seen in Houston, Texas
An aerial view of LyondellBasell-Houston Refining is seen in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

HOUSTON, July 29 (Reuters) - Chemical maker Lyondell Basell Industries (LYB.N) is considering a "very large investment" at the site of its Houston refinery after it permanently stops refining crude oil by the end of 2023, Chief Executive Peter Vanacker said in a conference call on Friday.

The investment would be in a technology Lyondell is developing to recycle plastics, Vanacker said during the Friday morning conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss second-quarter results.

"We are making very good progress on our molecular recycling technology," Vanacker said. "And this site could be a very good fit for us to do very large investments. Nothing has been decided yet. ...

"But the more we look at it, the more we are inspired ... because we have very good equipment that we eventually could then use."

Lyondell, which in April announced plans to shutter the refinery in December 2023, has said hydrotreaters at the refinery could be used to upgrade pyrolysis oil made from recycled plastics. Pyrolysis oil is a potential replacement for fossil fuels.

Lyondell plans to shut the refinery because it no longer fits with the company's global chemical production. Vanacker said on Friday that closing the plant would put the company 40% of the way to its carbon-reduction goal for 2030.

Vanacker, in his first conference call since becoming Lyondell's chief executive in May, offered the answer about repurposing the refinery site to answer questions about possible negotiations with would-be buyers of the facility.

Sources told Reuters on Thursday that the company has turned away at least one possible buyer which has inquired about buying the refinery. read more

In the second quarter, the refinery provided $418 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The refinery's returns helped offset losses in Lyondell's olefins and polyolefin production in European, Asian and international operations.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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