Industrial natural gas consumption has grown steadily since 2009, as relatively low prices have attracted customers who use natural gas as a feedstock for chemical production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, that growth is expected to continue through 2015 with consumption averaging 22.1 billion cubic feet per day in 2015, a 4% increase.
Methanol plants and ammonia- or urea-based fertilizer plants are among the most natural gas-intensive industrial end users, with many using 100 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) or more. Low gas prices and proximity to shale resources have led to proposals for several new industrial facilities.
Two methanol plants are set to begin service this year — a small facility in Pampa, Texas, and one in Geismar, Louisiana. A handful of fertilizer plants have begun service, and an expansion is planned at a plant near Beaumont, Texas, later this year.
Many plants are on the Gulf Coast, but proximity to shale development in the Marcellus, Bakken, and Niobrara areas have led to proposals for facilities outside of Texas and Louisiana. Two large facilities coming online in 2015, a methanol plant in Clear Lake, Texas, and a fertilizer/urea plant in Wever, Iowa, will support continued growth in industrial demand.
Developers hope to take advantage of abundant natural gas in the Bakken Shale. Two ammonia-based fertilizer plants are proposed for North Dakota for 2018. Farm-owned cooperative CHS Inc.'s proposed plant in Spiritwood and Northern Plains Nitrogen's proposed plant for Grand Forks are both in permitting stages. Both have expected production of 2,400 tons of ammonia per day and would use close to 100 MMcf/d of natural gas each, according to Bentek Energy estimates.
While most of the proposed methanol plants are on the Gulf Coast, two are proposed for 2018 in the Pacific Northwest. Northwest Innovation Works, a Chinese company, is planning two methanol facilities on the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. The company hopes to export methanol produced in the United States to Asian markets.