The Olefins Expansion Project is located in Poland. (Credit: ABB)
The complex will produce ethylene as the main product. (Credit: Técnicas Reunidas S. A)
PKN ORLEN and Fluor services agreement signing ceremony. (Credit: Fluor Corporation)

The Olefins Complex Expansion is an ongoing project that will increase production capacity at PKN ORLEN’s Płock production plant in Poland.

The expansion will involve the development of a new complex (Olefins III), boosting the plant’s petrochemical capacities.

The project, estimated to cost PLN13.5bn ($3bn), represents the largest investment in the European petrochemical industry in 20 years. The value of the project is based on a lump-sum bid for the key units of the complex and detailed estimates of expenditure on the necessary infrastructure.

Once fully operational, the project will increase ORLEN’s share in the European petrochemical market to 6.4% from the current 5%. This will boost PKN ORLEN’s Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) by around PLN1bn per year.

The petrochemicals produced by the complex will be used in manufacturing automotive parts, cleaning products, hygiene products, medical products, electronic equipment components, and synthetic fibres.

The development of the new Olefins Complex is part of the company’s ORLEN2030 strategy that aims to reduce emissions from refining, petrochemical and upstream business segments.

The construction of the complex is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024, and it is set to begin production in early 2025.


The complex is located in Płock in the Masovian Voivodeship, Poland. The site is around 120km northwest of Warsaw, the capital city of the country.

The Olefins Complex will include an area of nearly 100 hectares.

Olefins Complex Expansion Infrastructure

The Olefins III project will involve building a new steam cracker with a production capacity of 740,000 tonnes of ethylene and 340,000 tonnes of propylene per year. Alongside, the complex will feature five additional production units including a new ethylene oxide and glycol plant.

Additionally, PKN ORLEN plans to close a more than 40-year-old section of the olefin plant with production capacity of about 340,000 tonnes. A modern section with a capacity of about 300,000 tonnes, will be upgraded.

The project will use new technologies carbon emissions by 30% per tonne of product.

Operational details

The new steam cracker will employ pyrolysis-based technology to crack hydrocarbon feeds such as LPG, naphtha, and ethane into petrochemical products.

The cracking reaction take place at temperatures above 800oC and the heat generated by the process produces high-pressure steam.

Besides ethylene and propylene, the process produces several by-products such as mixed C4s, pyrolysis oil, gasoline (Pygas), and hydrogen.

The complex will also house ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) unit, a styrene extraction unit, a pyrolysis gasoline hydrogenation (PGH) unit, and an ethylene oxide unit.

The ETBE unit will process a part of the mixed C4s mixture where it will react with ethanol to convert into ETBE. The other by-products of the ETBE unit will be also refined into gasoline additives.

Gasoline (also called pygas), produced during naphtha cracking, is a mixture of hydrocarbons containing ring-shaped molecular structures called aromatics. It is used to produce valuable aromatic hydrocarbons such as styrene.

The styrene extraction unit will purify styrene using a technology involving crystallisation.

After styrene extraction, the pyrolytic gasoline will go to the PGH unit, which will enable hydrogenation of gasoline.

Subsequently, the hydrogenated gasoline is distilled into fractions with various properties.

One fraction will be rich in benzene and toluene, which the other will be used in gasoline or diesel oil blending to boost their commercial properties.

The ethylene oxide unit of the complex will produce high purity ethylene oxide (min. 99.9% weight) and mono-ethylene glycol.

Once complete, the project will increase base petrochemicals capacity at Płock by more than 1 million tonnes (60%).

Key uses of petrochemical products

Ethylene is used in the manufacturing polymers such as polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and other products such as ethylene oxide and ethylene glycols.

Polyethylene is used in packaging, toys, home appliances, pipes and cable insulation among others, while PVC is largely used in making pipes and energy-saving windows.

Propylene is used in making polypropylene, which is used in packaging, fibres for weaving carpets, medical devices, automotive parts and electronics’ outer casings.

Acrylonitrile, used in making plastics like ABS, is also obtained from propylene.

The products from the ETBE unit will be used to produce biofuel and additives to other fuels, while the styrene extraction unit will produce products for tires and suitcases.

Mono-ethylene glycol will be used to manufacture fibres. The products from ethylene oxide unit will be used to produce toys and cable installation.

Contractors of the Olefins Expansion Project

The pyrolysis-based technology to be used in the new steam cracker will be licenced from KBR, while chemical process technology provider Scientific Design will help in implementing an efficient process to yield high purity ethylene oxide.

In December 2019, Fluor Corporation received a services contract to provide project management contractor (PMC+) services for the expansion of its Olefins Complex.

In May 2021, PKN ORLEN awarded a €1.8bn engineering production construction and commissioning (EPCC) contract for the Olefins expansion project to Hyundai Engineering and Técnicas Reunidas. The two companies will be responsible for building the main units of the Olefin Complex.

In June 2022, technology company ABB was contracted to install their distributed control system (DCS) ABB Ability System 800xA at the new Olefin III complex.

Spanish firm Duro Felguera will supply a Wash Tower for the project.