Natgas, improved productivity fuel resurgence of US manufacturing

27 June 2012 21:56  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Low natural gas prices and productivity improvements have been the key drivers behind the current rebirth of the US manufacturing sector, an AkzoNobel executive said on Wednesday.

Auto manufacturers, chemical producers and other companies have recently announced billions of dollars worth of investments, said Frank Sherman, president of the North American operations of AkzoNobel. 

Sherman made his comments at the Specialty Chemicals Forum in Houston.

“Chrysler, GM, Nissan and Volkswagen have announced investment plan totalling $6bn [€4.8bn]. Intel Corp announced plans to invest $8bn in a plant expansion, not in China or India, but in North America,” Sherman said. “We are undergoing somewhat of an industrial renaissance driven by productivity improvements and lower natural gas prices.”

He said the price of natural gas has dropped to 2002 levels, while prices in Europe and emerging markets have continued to increase.

Chemical producers like ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Dow Chemical and others have made announcements to invest $25bn in ethane crackers and other petrochemical projects, Sherman added.

“This is not in Saudi Arabia or China or India,” he said. “This is in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

Unconventional techniques used to extract shale gas, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have given the US a competitive advantage over other countries.

But those techniques are under much scrutiny from the local, state and federal government, as well as the general public.

“It’s paramount for the industry to work with federal and state and local regulators to gain the public trust and ensure unconventional [drilling] is done in an environmentally sound manner with the proper disclosing of chemicals used while protecting confidential business information,” Sherman said.

($1 = €0.80)

By: Bobbie Clark
+1 713 525 2653

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