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Ethylene Exports from the U.S. Planned

Thanks to cheap natural gas from shale, the U.S. has become a large exporter of ethane as a feedstock for overseas ethylene makers. As U.S. chemical projects start to come on-stream later this year, the country will grow as an exporter of ethylene derivatives such as polyethylene (PE). Now, U.S. companies want to cultivate a chemical commodity that hasn’t been a steady export business: ethylene itself. Energy services firm Enterprise Products Partners and the marine liquefied gas carrier Navigator Holdings plan to build an ethylene export terminal at Enterprise’s Morgan’s Point complex on the Houston Ship Channel in Texas. The terminal will have the capacity to load 100 metric tons of ethylene onto ships per hour. It will be connected to an ethylene storage facility currently under construction that can hold 270,000 metric tons of ethylene. Last year, Enterprise opened an ethane export terminal in Morgan’s Point with the capacity to move about 550 metric tons per hour. At the moment, the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of ethylene export capability. The only such facility is operated by Targa Resources in Galena Park, also on the Houston Ship Channel. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. exported nearly 190,000 metric tons of ethylene last year. In 2014, it exported only 3,000 metric tons. Enterprise isn’t the only company looking to get into the ethylene export business. Odfjell Terminals is considering a facility for its Houston Ship Channel location in Seabrook, Texas. Source: Chemical & Engineering News, 7/24/2017, p.11.

TCGR Note: The two main markets for ethylene exports are likely to be Europe and China. China is home to many companies that make ethylene derivatives but aren’t back integrated with a source of ethylene, making them vulnerable as Chinese open market sources of ethylene are dwindling.