Ethylene shift to shale-derived feedstock hits SBR output: Erste

16 December 2011 16:08  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Shale gas extraction in the US has led to less synthetic butadiene rubber (SBR) on the market because of the feedstock impact on ethylene producers, Erste Group Bank said on Friday.

With the cost of gas having been significantly cut by the availability of cheaper shale-derived fuel, noted Erste, many American ethylene crackers have been switched from liquid naphtha feedstock to ethane feedstock extracted from shale gas.

But this has led to reduced availability of butadiene, which is generally a by-product of ethylene-cracking processes fed with liquid naphtha.

“When feeding the ethylene cracker with gas feedstock, no butadiene is produced,” said Erste analyst Tomasz Kasowicz.

The extent of the ethylene cracker changeover – which could not be duplicated in Europe where most ethylene crackers are purpose-built to run on liquid naphtha – amounts to a structural change in the oil and gas market which could “result in serious problems in butadiene capacities development”, said Kasowicz.

Shortages of butadiene, the main feedstock for production of SBR, may appear in future, resulting in a price surge, he added.

“Global annual production of butadiene is estimated at more than 10 million tonnes, with two-thirds of this being consumed by synthetic rubber and the last third by other polymers.

“Comparing this with production of synthetic rubber at 14 million tonnes, we see that production of butadiene seems to be insufficient for the synthetic rubber industry,” Kasowicz said in a report looking at the prospects of Europe’s second-largest synthetic rubber producer, Poland’s Synthos.

However, he concluded that the potential shortage of butadiene “should not be harmful for SBR producers in Europe, as the European SBR producers have secured its feedstock base”.

For more on butadiene visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Will Conroy
+44 20 8652 3214

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