US spot ethane prices set all-time low on cracker outages, supply

08 January 2013 22:07  [Source: ICIS news]

US spot ethane prices set another all-time lowHOUSTON (ICIS)--US spot ethane prices fell to another all-time low on Tuesday, as cracker outages and a lingering supply overhang continue to affect the market.

Spot prices for ethane fell to 22.00 cents/gal, the lowest price since ICIS began tracking the commodity in 2011.

The previous all-time low of 22.50 cents/gal was set in December 2012.

A source said oversupply has been the main reason prices are dropping so low.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs), such ethane and propane, are plentiful in the US, thanks to massive shale rock formations and the ability to use hydraulic fracturing to access vast stores of natural gas.

Cracker outages have also lent support to the trend.

There was an unusually high number of turnarounds in the first half of 2012 as well as at the end of the year.

In December 2012, Williams Olefins, Flint Hills Resources and BASF TOTAL all had cracker outages that removed nearly 2.2m tonnes/year of capacity from the market.

The outages have continued into 2013.

Huntsman has shut down its 193,000 tonne/year Port Neches cracker in Texas, and Westlake has plans to take down its 699,000 tonne/year Petro 2 cracker in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Westlake cracker is undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity by 104,000-109,000 tonnes/year.

Additional reporting by William Lemos

By: Bobbie Clark
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