US ethane production to rise to 1.1m bbl/day by 2020 - consultant

03 March 2011 16:46  [Source: ICIS news]

ATLANTA (ICIS)--US production of ethane - the primary feedstock of the US petrochemical industry - is set to rise to almost 1.1m bbl/day by 2020, up from around 800,000 bbl/day in 2011, a natural gas consultant said on Thursday.

“Natural gas liquids [NGLs] production is expected to ramp up from a number of shale gas plays such as the Eagle Ford in south Texas and the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and New York,” said Larry Schwartz, senior NGL analyst at global commodities consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

Schwartz spoke at the ISM Chemical Group meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many shale gas areas are rich in NGLs, which are used as feedstocks for petrochemical production.

Particular areas of NGL richness include the Eagle Ford, the Bakken in the northern US, and the southwest portion of the Marcellus shale, he said.

The increasing production of natural gas is expected to keep prices relatively low, though rising over time.

“Gas is available in any feasible quantity at a moderate price. We expect it to be plentiful and much less expensive than crude oil,” said Schwartz.

He expects US natural gas prices to range from $4.20-4.40/MMBtu through 2012, rising to a range of $5.75-6.50 in the 2012-2016 period, and $6.50-7.50 beyond 2016.

“In relative terms to oil, gas should remain cheap. But we are projecting that there will be greater demand for gas supplies, driving up the price modestly,” said Schwartz.

The consultant said he expected increasing opportunities to build petrochemical capacity in the US.

“There is lots of turmoil in the Middle East, and all of a sudden, we have all this ethane in the US. This is another opportunity for reinvestment in the US,” said Schwartz.

The ISM Chemical Group meeting began on Thursday and ends on Friday.

By: Joseph Chang
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