NPRA ’11: More talk of new N America cracker for Marcellus shale

28 March 2011 00:26  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--The new abundance of shale gas plays in the US and Canada is making the prospect of a new North American ethylene cracker increasingly likely, a leading Canadian government petrochemicals official said on Sunday.

“The consensus seems to be that there will be a new cracker somewhere in the Marcellus region; the only question is where,” said John Margeson, head of chemicals and plastics in the Resource Processing Industries Branch of Industry Canada.

Margeson was referring to the Marcellus shale gas play that stretches from upper New York state and runs under several states to a narrowing point in Tennessee.

The Marcellus play is one of nearly a dozen major shale fields that stretch across the US. Similar large shale gas plays are in Canada.

The increasing development of shale gas in the lower 48 US states has boosted the nation’s gas resources by some 35% since 2006, according to the US Department of Energy.

With that much additional resource available, a new US cracker - almost unthinkable just a few years ago - is said to be viable, even necessary to take advantage of the greater natgas feedstock availability. 

Bayer is among chemical producers that have offered production sites for a new cracker, suggesting that two of its existing facilities in West Virginia, atop the Marcellus shale play, would be ideal.

Margeson said that the Canadian petrochemicals complex at Sarnia, Ontario is being promoted as a contender site for a new North American cracker, saying that the existing complex already has two crackers that could accommodate additional feedstock from the Marcellus shale and, eventually, host a new cracker development.

“It would give Sarnia a real boost, fill up the existing crackers there and allow for some expansion,” he said of possible Marcellus shale gas feeds to the complex.

Margeson noted that Sarnia is much closer to the Marcellus play than, for example, potential cracker sites on the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

“We think the Sarnia option for a new cracker is attractive,” he said. “The infrastructure is there, it is an existing petrochemicals centre, and connections are close by.”

He said a study by Markwest, a midstream company in partnership with Sunoco, indicated that existing pipeline networks would need only 25 additional miles of line to make a connection between Sarnia and the Marcellus shale play in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania state government also has become active in offering incentives for a new cracker to be sited in the state to take advantage of the Marcellus play that runs through much of the state’s territory.

Margeson was speaking on the sidelines of the 36th annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC).  Sponsored by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the conference runs through Tuesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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