U.S. petrochemical companies are expected to launch an extra 7.34 million tpa of new cracker capacity by 2017, as the industry continues to leverage growing shale gas production and low-cost ethane that will fuel the crackers, a new report by Business Monitor International (BMI) has revealed.

Its latest U.S. Petrochemicals Report states that currently there are plans for a further 10 million tpa of cracker capacity but it is not clear how many of these projects would actually be completed. Still, the industry is predicted to keep expanding in the period through 2017, with capital gains realized across most sectors.

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During the final quarter of last year the best performing petrochemical sectors were fertilizers, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, synthetic rubber and consumer products, but their robust growth was offset by declining output in other categories, including inorganic chemicals, plastic resins and manmade fibers, BMI found. Overall, U.S. chemical output for the first 11 months of 2013 was 1.3 percent higher than in the same period of 2012.

The outlook for 2014 is generally positive, the report said. China's chemical market has rebounded and Europe is also showing signs of recovery, while the entire U.S. industry is going strong. BMI concluded that over the course of this year U.S. chemical inventories are likely to maintain a good balance and the global economic recovery will boost exports.