AFPM ’12: Petrochemicals industry energised on shale potential

31 March 2012 18:00  [Source: ICIS news]

A map of the Marcellus ShaleHOUSTON (ICIS)--US petrochemical industry executives gathering in San Antonio, Texas, for the 37th annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) are seeing a whole new game as opportunities arise from the production of shale gas.

“Interestingly, there is so much buzz about positive things happening in the industry – it seems to be more of a focal point of discussion than pending regulation," said Jim Cooper, vice president for petrochemicals for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the sponsor of the IPC.

“Companies are optimistic and want to meet and do business,” he said, adding conference attendance is likely to reach well over 2,900 and possibly more than 3,000 for the first time in a few years.

The conference will feature a Monday panel discussion on the implication of shale plays on the global petrochemical industry, with representatives of consultancies Hart Energy, IHS Global Insight and Wood MacKenzie participating.

“I think we are just beginning to really realise the potential” of the shale plays and their implication on downstream manufacturing and exports, Cooper said.

Already, Shell has announced a site near Monaca, Pennsylvania, for a possible cracker, but has added a final decision on whether to build the facility is years away.

Several other companies have voiced interest in building or expanding cracking capacity in the US to take advantage of the shale reserves.

On a related note, the AFPM is working on a campaign “to educate people how the manufacturing chain works [and] what is needed to realise the potential – there really could be a manufacturing renaissance even for finished good in the United States”, he said.

According to the Colorado School of Mines and its Potential Gas Committee, the US alone is now believed to have enough natural gas resources to meet the nation’s 22,000bn cubic feet (bcf) annual gas consumption demand for almost 100 years.

However, participants at other recent conferences have warned that the current low natural gas prices could hamper exploration and production, which in turn could slow production of ethane for crackers.

US government regulations on activities such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) could also threaten the manufacturing renaissance, the AFPM has warned.

On the political front, political strategist and analyst Michael Murphy will give a talk on Tuesday about America’s political future.

Former CIA Director and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will speak at the event’s Tuesday luncheon. He replaces former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was unable to attend as a result of his recent heart transplant.

The conference runs 1-3 April.

By: Brian Ford
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