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Ethylene

US and China Are Driving Forces in Global Ethylene Market

| Editor: Tobias Hüser

Lyondell Basell is among the world’s largest producers of ethylene and propylene oxide. The Channelview complex is one of the largest petrochemical facilites along the U.S. Gulf Coast, covering an area of nearly 3,900 acres.
Lyondell Basell is among the world’s largest producers of ethylene and propylene oxide. The Channelview complex is one of the largest petrochemical facilites along the U.S. Gulf Coast, covering an area of nearly 3,900 acres. (Picture: Lyondell Basell)

Global ethylene capacity will rise from 167 million tons per year (mmty) in 2014 to an estimated 208.5 mmty by 2017, with the US and China accounting for around one-third of additions over the forecast period, according to research and consulting firm Global Data.

London/UK – The company’s latest report states that the US will drive North America’s ethylene capacity from 35.6 mmty in 2014 to 46 mmty by 2017. New plants coming onstream in 2016 and 2017 will contribute most of the region’s capacity additions. Matthew Jurecky, Global Data’s Head of Oil and Gas Research and Consulting, says: “The US and China are driving ethylene capacity expansion projects, with the former benefiting from prolific shale gas and the latter from world-leading demand growth.

“The impact of tremendous growth in shale gas is only now being felt, as North American ethylene capacity had remained flat over the last few years. Meanwhile, China continues to lead growth, solidifying the Asia-Pacific as the single largest production region and helping to push global capacity over the 200 mmty milestone by 2017.”

Jurecky adds that less expensive ethane derived from wet shale gas makes ethylene production highly attractive and is behind large-scale US capacity additions. Many companies, such as Dow Chemical, Chevron Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, are betting on increased competitiveness in the US and are constructing ethane crackers to produce cost-advantaged ethylene.

High Demand for Major Downstream Products in Asia-Pacific

Global Data’s report also explains that the Asia-Pacific market will maintain its leading position due to high demand for ethylene from major downstream products, such as polyethylene and ethylene oxide, from China and India. Jurecky comments: “Ethylene capacity expansion in China is comprised of several small plants based on heavy feedstock. Most new plants will come onstream in 2015 and 2016, boosting the country’s capacity by approximately 53 % by the end of the decade.”

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