US Petchems Overconfident On Shale Gas



By John Richardson

THE soaring confidence of the US petrochemicals industry over abundant ethane feedstock from shale gas could end up being colossally misplaced, as we have discussed before on the blog.

America is the most NIMBY (not in my backyard) of all societies and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that scrutiny is increasing over the environmental impact of the “fracking process”. For example, several Senators said on Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency should step up regulations of shale gas because of concerns that toxic chemicals, such as barium and benzene used in fracking, could get into the water supply.

This followed another New York Times article on  Monday ahead of the release of a Cornell University study that will argue that as much as 7.9% of global methane emissions come from shale gas.

The gas is intentionally vented or flared from shale-gas wells or seeps out from loose pipe fittings along gas distribution lines, the study will claim.

This results in shale gas being worse for the environment than using coal for power generation.

But if the US wants to increase energy independence it is going to have to make some tough choices and with crude prices where they are right now, the natural gas industry might well find that its counter-arguments are well-received.

At the very least, though, this raises doubts over claims that the US is set to become the new Middle East of petrochemicals.

Chevron Phillips Chemicals has announced a feasibility study into a new cracker in the States and the blog has heard that that at least two more new facilities are under study.

Several expansions of existing plants are also under study amounting to a total of aorund 1m tonne/year of potential new capacity.

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