APLA '11: Latin American chemical trade deficit grows - president

07 November 2011 02:19  [Source: ICIS news]

BUENOS AIRES (ICIS)--Latin America's chemical trade deficit has roughly doubled in the past five years, as production has not kept up with the region's rapid economic expansion, the president of a chemical trade group said late on Sunday.

In fact, the region has seen few major projects begin operations in recent years, said Pedro Wongtschowski, president of Brazilian producer Ultrapar and the president of APLA.

Wongtschowski was speaking to delegates during the 31st Latin American Petrochemical Association (APLA) annual meeting in Buenos Aires.

With so few new projects coming on line, ethylene capacity for the region has increased by single digits in the past five years, he said.

That is much too slow to keep up with rising petrochemical demand as a result of the region's expanding economy, he said.

Argentina, Colombia and Peru have all had rapid rates of growth, he said. The much larger economies of Brazil and Mexico have also expanded.

Looking forward, Latin America's petrochemical industry is about to break its dry spell and add several large projects, he said.

In Brazil, the massive Complexo Petroquimico do Rio de Janeiro (Comperj) will include two refineries and several petrochemical plants that will use natural gas liquids as feedstock.

In Mexico, Braskem and Petrobras are building Ethylene XXI, a complex that will produce ethylene and polyethylene (PE), he said.

In Argentina, refiner YPF is evaluating the expansion of a refinery in La Plata, which could increase supplies for naphtha and other petrochemical feedstock, he said.

In Colombia, Ecopetrol is expanding refineries at two sites, which could provide the petrochemical industry with naphtha for feedstock, he said.

New petrochemical projects, however, will need access to more feedstock, Wongtschowski said.

Shale gas has been discovered in several parts of Latin America, and that could provide the industry with the feedstock for new projects, he said.

In addition to raw materials, Latin America needs to improve its transportation infrastructure, such as ports and roads, Wongtschowski said.

The 2011 APLA conference ends on Tuesday.

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

By: Al Greenwood
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