Trade Resources Industry Views The US Ethylene Market Could Have Six New World-Scale Steam Crackers Online by 2017-2019

The US Ethylene Market Could Have Six New World-Scale Steam Crackers Online by 2017-2019

The US ethylene market could have six new world-scale steam crackers online by 2017-2019, Dow Chemical's Jim Fitterling said Wednesday.

Speaking at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference in Houston, Fitterling announced expansions for the energy industry -- as many as 120 projects worth $100 billion in investment -- have outpaced all projections.

"Companies are placing bets that the energy revolution is real," said Fitterling, Dow's executive vice president for feedstocks, performance plastics and supply chain. "The revival is unprecedented."

Dow is one of several chemical majors looking to expand ethylene production through greenfield projects to take advantage of cheap ethane, a preferred feedstock in the manufacturing of ethylene.

Other companies planning to build steam crackers include Axiall, ChevronPhillips Chemical, ExxonMobil Chemical, Formosa Plastics, Shell Chemical, Occidental/Mexichem, Odebrecht, Shell and Shin-Etsu.

"We have 10 new ethane crackers announced, eight of them in the US Gulf Coast region," Fitterling said, adding that six of the 10 are past the feasibility phase. "Announced doesn't mean built, but it's still an indication of what companies think of the investment thesis."

If all projects -- greenfield as well as expansions/debottlenecks -- are realized, US ethylene production could grow as much as 12-14 million mt/year by 2020, according to Platts data. That translates into an increase of nearly 50% from today's production levels.

Fitterling warned that major hurdles remain, including skilled labor shortages and the the threat of higher feedstock prices resulting from exports, and not all projects will be realized.

"Advantage goes to those who strike first," Fitterling said. "I see some of these projects mothballed, or scrapped altogether."

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US Ethylene Market Could See Six New Steam Crackers by 2017-2019
Topics: Chemicals