Plastics, chemicals and refining company LyondellBasell is considering an expansion of its petrochemical plant in Channelview, Texas, the company announced.

The project, if it goes ahead, would add up to 550 million pounds per year of ethylene capacity.

Tim Roberts, LyondellBasell's executive vice president, Olefins & Polyolefins, Americas, explained that the company's strategy is to expand its existing facilities to take advantage of abundant supplies of low-cost natural gas and ethane from shale production.

LyondellBasell is also increasing its ethylene capacity at two other Texas plants. An expansion adding 800 million pounds per year of capacity was recently completed in La Porte, and a further 800 million pounds of capacity will be added at its site in Corpus Christi, with completion scheduled for late 2015.

Preliminary engineering work is already underway at the Channelview site to assess the feasibility of the latest proposed expansion. If the project goes ahead, it is anticipated to be completed in 2017.

This would be in addition to work already underway at the site to install two large cracking furnaces. When that is completed early next year it's expected to increase production by 250 million pounds per year.

The three existing expansion projects at the Texas plants will add a total of 1.85 billion pounds of ethylene capacity per year. That's the equivalent of constructing a new stand-alone cracking unit, Roberts said. The additional capacity will increase to 2.4 billion if the new expansion project at Channelview is finalized.

LyondellBasell is currently the fifth largest producer of ethylene in the world. Ethylene and related products produced by the company are used to manufacture a wide range of materials for consumer durable products, flexible packaging and automotive applications.