Time for a new US cracker as ethane advantage grows?

US ethane-based petrochemical producers such as Dow Chemical, LyondellBasell

and Westlake Chemical will enjoy a long term feedstock advantage over Asian and West European naphtha exposed manufacturers such as BASF, Hanwha and Honam Petrochemical, according to US-headquartered analysts Alembic.

New methods of extracting shale gas mean that the US should have enough natural gas to supply the US chemical industry for at least the next 90 years. According to Alembic, US producers will remain advantaged so long as oil prices remain above $70/bbl.

The report also suggests that US producers are now on a par with mixed-feed Middle East producers. With this in mind, could it be time for US producers to consider planning major expansions, even a new cracker for North America? The picture for naphtha-dependent Europe is more bleak. Ineos is planning a new facility for importing ethylene to Europe. Could it be planning to buy cheap Middle East ethylene and closing its European crackers?

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