Ethane Cracker Companies Paying Lip-Service to Recycling & Sustainability

by admin on October 24, 2019

Shale-fueled US plastics boom puts spotlight on sustainability

From S & P Global Platts News Service, October 22, 2019

Virgin plastic production is thriving in the US, fueled by the North American shale boom. But the reversal of fortune for the US chemical industry has highlighted a bigger challenge amid widespread concern about plastic waste and sustainability.

The growth of shale activity across the US unearthed ethane feedstock so cheap that a region that had been facing naphtha-fed plant shutdowns and petrochemical imports saw the cost advantage of home-fracked gas shaping its future as a global petrochemical supplier.

As such, the focus has overwhelmingly been on ethane-fed crackers and derivative polyethylene (PE), the resin used to make the most-used plastics in the world, and less on how to deal with the plastics they produce after use.

Companies are stepping up their efforts in recycled plastics, most notably with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, to which dozens of companies have committed more than $1 billion to find solutions to the plastic waste problem.

While petrochemical giants like Dow, BASF, LyondellBasell, Sabic, Braskem, Sinopec, Sasol and Reliance Industries are among the alliance’s members, most efforts in the US focus on research and funding.

Production is still mainly virgin plastics, with inclusion of recycled resin in new plastic products being pushed by resin buyers. And resin producers face the same key challenge as their counterparts in other regions, of sourcing enough high-quality plastic waste as a feedstock.

New ethylene and polyethylene (PE) capacity growth

Fourteen new ethane crackers that are operational, under construction or planned from 2017 beyond 2020 will add nearly 18.5 million mt/year, or 52%, more US ethylene capacity. In addition, 28 new PE plants starting up or planned in the same span will increase capacity by nearly 60%, or 13.67 million mt/year.

Other derivatives are accompanying some of the new crackers, such as monoethylene glycol or alcohols units, and a new polypropylene plant under construction. The companies that went all in on these projects include the biggest global names in petrochemicals: Dow, ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips Chemical, LyondellBasell, Formosa Plastics USA, Sasol and Ineos.


Massive cranes, some over 700 ft. tall dominate “Cracker” construction site

See also: A Tour Through the Massive Shell Cracker Chemical Plant in Beaver County, PA

Article by Gerry Ricciutti, WKBN News, September 24, 2019

“Work could take another year and a half to complete”


ExxonMobil Scouting Property For 2nd Cracker Plant In Beaver County

From an Article by Reid Frazer, StateImpact Penna., October 17, 2019

ExxonMobil is reportedly looking for land to build a large chemical plant in Beaver County. If built, it would be the second major chemical plant in Beaver County built to take advantage of cheap natural gas from the region’s fracking industry.

Shell is already buidling a six-billion dollar plant in Monaca that will make plastic out of ethane, a common byproduct of natural gas. Other companies are looking at locations in Ohio and West Virginia.

“Certainly there is a a large supply of (natural gas liquids) which could potentially be converted into plastics for industrial use,” said Jennifer Van Dinter, an analyst at S&P Global Platts.

“By the early 2020s, we’re (projecting) between about 500,000 and 600,000 barrels a day of ethane being produced, and that would be capable of supporting four to five petrochemical facilities,” Van Dinter said.

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