US shale gas buzz in the Middle East

By Malini Hariharan

The US shale gas advantage is a recurring theme at this year’s GPCA forum with companies giving more details about their expansion plans.

Chevron Philips Chemical confirmed that it will build a 1.5m tonnes/year cracker at its Cedar Bayou complex in Texas, reports ICIS news

Permits for the project are being filed, said the company’s ceo at the GPCA forum.

The company is also looking to add 1m tonnes/year of polyethylene (PE) capacity in the US. Two PE units, each of 500,000 tonnes/year capacity, would be built with one of the plants likely to located at the Cedar Bayou complex and the other at Chevron Phillips’ Sweeny complex, also in Texas.

And Shell Chemicals executive vice president Ben van Beurden, told fellow blogger John Richardson that a decision on the location of its cracker project in the US would be announced over the next few weeks.

The complex, which could be built in Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia, would draw ethane feedstock from the Marcellus shale gas field that runs through all three states.

Beurden also emphasised that the company is keen to return to polyolefins production.

“Petrochemicals demand is growing above global GDP growth and a substantial reason for that is polyolefins and so we need to be in polyolefins,” he said.

Shell might also build a monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant downstream of its US cracker which is likely to start up in 2016-17.

US ethane production is expected to grow by 33% over the next three years to 1.2m bbl/day, according to projections by the industry. The US produced an average 900,000 bbl/day of ethane in 2011. US ethylene capacity is expected to increase by 24% or 6.4m tonnes/year by 2018, an IHS consultant predicted during the conference in Dubai. This includes expansions and new crackers.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is working on boosting gas output. In his keynote speech at the forum Prince Faisal Bin Turki, advisor to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, said the Kingdom would double its gas production capacity by 2016 as it undertakes aggressive measures of exploration to move gas resources into reserves by utilising and developing advanced technologies.

The new measures will enable the country to grow its gas production capacity to about 15 billion cubic feet (bcf)/day by 2016 from 7.7 bcf/day in 2002.

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