Business Forum How to Profit from the US–Shale–Boom: Spotlight on Houston

Editor: Gabriele Ilg

On Tuesday, speakers from the U.S. and Germany took to the stage to present at the Houston Business Forum. Moderated by Dr. Marvin L. Baker of High Technology Associates, the forum focused on the petrochemicals industry in Houston, and considerations for European companies looking to establish U.S. operations.

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The Houston Business Forum speakers covered U.S. petrochemical operations in great detail.
The Houston Business Forum speakers covered U.S. petrochemical operations in great detail.
(Picture: Page Bailey)

Jeffrey Blair of Greater Houston Partnership cited Houston’s strong economy, strategic location and diverse population as a driver for attracting international companies. Statistics from Blair’s presentation indicated that the 11 counties comprising the greater Houston area together had a higher gross domestic product (GDP) than Austria, Denmark or Venezuela.

He also noted the recent trend of Mexico-based companies using Houston as a key operating base. From a construction point of view, Houston’s resources are quite abundant compared to other U.S. cities, said another forum panelist, Fluor’s Denis Menegaz. Additionally, Menegaz explained, a trend favoring modular construction is also attractive to customers looking to build new sites, as modularization decreases costs and increases reliability through repeatability.

With the relatively low price and high abundance of natural gas, alongside the decrease in crude-oil prices, the chemicals industry has experienced a flurry of new construction in recent months. Mark Eramo of IHS Global Chemical Insights described these trends and their relationship to the prices of base chemicals in North America, showing that there are many advantages to producing these materials on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Eramo also outlined the companies that have announced plans for or are currently building new base-chemicals production facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast, including Sasol, BASF and Formosa. The final part of the forum brought together Samson Controls and Linde, two German companies that have operations in Houston, to offer guidelines for international companies looking to establish U.S.-based facilities.