According to the new report, U.S. ethylene capacity dropped from 27.089 million metric tons per annum (MMpta) in 2000 to an estimated 26.137 MMpta in 2012, but increased investments in the industry will see this figure jump to 35.048 MMpta by 2017 — an increase of just under 35 percent.
In correlation with the recent surge in shale gas output, the production of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) has increased significantly. Ethane, a hydrocarbon almost exclusively used in petrochemical production, is a major component of NGLs and is cracked to produce ethylene.
Correspondingly, investors have been keen to be a part of an ethylene industry on the rise, and many major U.S. ethylene producers are investigating the possibility of bringing online new plants with capacities of more than one MMpta in the near future.
Strong ethane production has also lowered prices and made the U.S. petrochemicals industry much more competitive than in previous years, says GlobalData’s report. Five years ago, the U.S. was one of the most expensive places to produce ethylene, but the ethane-based U.S. petrochemicals industry is now in a better position than the naphtha-based petrochemicals industries of Europe and Asia-Pacific, and second only to the Middle East in terms of production economy.