North America's shale gas revolution is likely to be the biggest energy event since the discovery of the country's first oil reserves, according to Stephen Pryor, ExxonMobil Chemical's president.
“The world is on the cusp of a new age of unconventional energy,” Pryor said at last week's IHS World Petrochemical Conference in Houston, Texas. “It is transforming America's energy future, unleashing economic growth and improving the environment.”
“It's unlike anything we've seen in this country since the dawning of the age of oil, some 150 years ago in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region.”
In an interview with Plastics News, Pryor added that the rise of shale gas “is positive news for everybody in petrochemical value chain – for an efficient producer like ExxonMobil and for custom fabricators in the US and around the world”.
For Houstin-based ExxonMobil Chemical, the shale boom is manifesting itself in a massive expansion of its petrochemicals site in Baytown, Texas. The multibillion dollar expansion will add a new ethylene cracker and almost three billion pounds of PE capacity. Pryor said the expansion will double the site's PE capacity and increase its ethylene capacity by as much as 70%.
Across the industry, at least six world-scale ethylene crackers are planned for North America – projects that could boost the region's ethylene capacity by 33%.
“These projects may not all materialise but the US is clearly in an expansion mode,” added Pryor. “It's a tremendous opportunity for growth of US chemical exports.”
New resin and feedstock capacity resulting from shale gas could also have an echo effect on North American plastic processing and fabricating, he believes.
“For fabricators, they're going to see a major wave in new investment,” he said. But Pryor stopped short of saying that the new capacity could lead to lower or even more stable PE prices.
“The [PE] market sets the price and it's hard to see how that's going to play out,” he explained.
A portion of that new PE will likely be exported from the region since, as Pryor pointed out, the grow
A portion of that new PE likely will be exported from the region, since, as Pryor pointed out, "the growth of [PE] supply will be larger than the growth of demand in this country."