APIC: US Feedstock and Asia Optimism

By John Richardson

FEEDSTOCK advantages in the US and the continued economic rise of Asia were some of the themes of last week’s Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Steam crackers are being planned in abundance in the US. As much as 7.65m tonne/year of new ethane-based ethylene capacity could be on-stream in the States by 2017.

Old technologies are also being brushed-off and updated to take advantage of the shale-gas boom. For example, West Virginia-based Aither Chemicals is re-developing a 1980s Union Carbide technology for reacting ethane in the presence of oxygen, over a catalyst, to produce ethylene and acetic acid, the conference heard.

Several companies were also said to be working on commercialisation of technologies to make aromatics from methane.

The inexorable economic rise of Asia was said to revolve around increases in urbanisation and per capita incomes.

The China slowdown and the Eurozone crisis were also discussed.

But both in public, and privately, delegates said that we would soon return to strong overall economic conditions, thanks to Asia replacing lost growth in the West. 

On feedstock advantages, there is of course no doubt that the landscape has changed quite radically.

The US has enormous opportunities to become the United States of Gas, thus boosting both petrochemicals and downstream manufacturing industries, as it also benefits from a shift in relative labour costs.

But for us, demand remains a concern – both in the short and long-term. We worry that there are no guarantees that we will easily move beyond the problems in China and the Eurozone. 

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