JOHANNESBURG, Aug 28 (Reuters) - South Africa's Sasol said on Wednesday its U.S. ethane cracker plant was now producing enough ethylene for use, bringing it a step closer to completing its Lake Charles Chemicals Project that has been hit by delays and cost hikes.
"With the first three units commissioned, plants representing more than 60% of the project’s total output are now online," said Bongani Nqwababa, Sasol's joint CEO and president.
Sasol - the world's biggest maker of motor fuel from coal - said it would focus on improving the ethylene quality as well as the ramp up at the cracker unit, which was currently operating at 50% capacity.
The company expects to have the remaining units in the project up and running by the first quarter of 2020, Nqwababa said.
The ethylene produced in the facility will be used in six downstream plants on site to produce a range of derivatives.
Sasol delayed the release of its annual financial results earlier this month due to possible "control weaknesses" at the LCCP project, sending shares in the chemicals and energy company sharply lower.
The project in Louisiana, which will convert natural gas into the plastics ingredient ethylene, was initially expected to cost $8.9 billion in 2014 and has seen delays and cost increases. (Reporting by Onke Ngcuka Editing by Tanisha Heiberg and Deepa Babington)