US olefins makers reap bounty from ethane, export market - official

10 December 2010 23:40  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS)--The US ethylene industry made a strong comeback from the 2008 financial crisis, and the sector is now reaping the benefits of being one of the world’s most competitive producers, an industry official said on Friday.

Shale gas was a game changer for the US industry, and the natural gas price advantage is likely to continue, said Dan Smith, director and chairman of Kraton Performance Polymers.

US shale gas supply would continue to grow, Smith said, adding that the discoveries so far had barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

US ethane production, which is now estimated at 850,000 bbl/day, is expected to surge by 30% in the next two years, according to industry projections.

“I would not build another cracker, but would make better use of the ones in place,” Smith told attendees at the Northeast Chemical Association (NECA) Christmas luncheon in New York City.

The industry is likely to stay in very good shape, he said, also pointing to growing US chemical exports as a result of competitive feedstock prices.

The US is competitive in exports as it was in the 1970s, he said.

While painting a bright outlook for the chemical industry, Smith was less optimistic about the US economy, predicting inflation would return and posed a challenge going forward.

“It is a shadow in the horizon,” he said.

The 2010 NECA Christmas luncheon drew just over 300 attendees, up from 250 participants in 2009, a NECA official said, linking the rise in attendance to improved sentiment in the industry.

“It was one of our best attendances ever,” the official said.

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By: William Lemos
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