NPRA ’07: Near term optimism, future worries

27 March 2007 22:01  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--The 32nd annual National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) petrochemicals conference ended on Tuesday with optimism for business this year but amid worries about regulatory and energy impacts ahead.


Rick Brown, executive vice president at the Washington, DC-based NPRA, said members of the trade group and others among the 3,300 registered participants were “very happy with this year’s conference”.


He said the conference programme’s focus on global business, energy and environmental matters was very well received.


“And this was a very good business occasion,” he said.  “This is, after all, a commercial meeting,” he said.


In addition to the paid registrants, an estimated 2,000 other industry representatives were in San Antonio to participate in corporate meetings on the fringes of the conference.


Brown said that among those attending the conference he found sentiment that 2007 will be a good year for the chemicals industry worldwide. 


“There is some question about 2008 and 2009, however,” he said.


NPRA vice chairman Norm Phillips reflected that uncertainty about the out years.  This is, he said, “an increasingly uncertain environment”.


Phillips, senior vice president at Lyondell Chemical, noted that as the rest of this year unfolds, “the 110th Congress will aggressively scrutinize energy policy and the US oil and gas industry”.


The US chemicals industry is almost wholly dependent on natural gas as a feedstock. About 85% of vast oil and gas reserves located offshore along the US coastlines remain barred to drilling under 25-year-old congressional moratoria.


“Much-needed access to available natural gas reserves in the US, among other issues, will be critical in helping maintain the competitiveness of petrochemical and other US manufacturers,” Phillips said.


Phillips also said that increased focus on environmental concerns, both in the US and abroad, along with possible legislative responses to perceived global warming issues could have critical impact on the competitiveness of US chemicals manufacturing.


As the NPRA petrochemicals conference drew to a close on Tuesday, US producers were anticipating imminent release of new federal regulations governing anti-terrorism security measures at high-risk chemical plants. 


Conference participants also expressed concern about the likely prospect that the new Democrat-majority US Congress has already moved to rewrite and toughen the federal statute that underlies the new regulations.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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