With natural gas prices down by three-quarters since 2005, cheap raw materials and energy fuel the US reindustrialisation. Market analyst IHS believes that up to € 70 billion will be invested by 2025, doubling North America’s production of basic chemicals and plastics — is America the promised land for the process industry?
Much of the action is taking place on the Gulf Coast, traditional home of the US petrochemical industry. Here, manufacturers are able to take advantage of shale gas brought in by pipeline from across the country, an experienced labor force, and easy access to shipping terminals. A large number of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants will provide feedstocks for the chemical industry, but are also well placed to meet future export demand.
Companies involved include Chevron Phillips Chemical (Sweeny, Texas); Equistar Chemicals/LyondellBasell (Corpus Christi, Texas); Sempra LNG/Mitsubishi/Mitsui Chemicals (Hackberry, Louisiana); BG Group/Energy Transfer/LNG Trunkline Export (Lake Charles, Louisiana); Sasol (Lake Charles, Louisiana); Shell/Southern Liquefaction/Kinder Morgan (Elba Island, Georgia) and Freeport LNG (Freeport, Texas).
US oil is also doing well: Valero Energy said in September that it will increase capacity for light crude at several Gulf Coast refineries to handle the growing Texas oil production in the years up to 2018. The refineries in question are at Houston, Corpus Christi and Port Arthur in Texas, and Meraux in Louisiana. Valero also plans to expand hydrocrackers at Port Arthur, Meraux, and St. Charles, Louisiana. Other refinery projects in the southern states include a hydrocracker capacity increase by Marathon Petroleum at Garyville, Louisiana. The work should be complete by early 2014, a year ahead of schedule.
Exxon Mobil Chemical is building a world-scale (50,000 t/y) plant for metallocene polyalphaolefin (mPAO) synthetic lubricant stocks at its Baytown complex in Texas. At Baton Rouge, Louisiana, meanwhile, the company is building a new chemicals and lubricants plant which will increase the capacity for synthetic esters and naphthalene by more than 25 %. Petroplex International has started constructing a bulk liquids terminal for oil, refined petroleum products and chemicals on the Mississippi River. Completion is scheduled for 2015.
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