HOUSTON — The U.S. petrochemicals market is riding four waves of investment thanks to the feedstock advantage provided by North American shale gas, according to a top executive at Dow Chemical Co.
“The investment surge could be much bigger than we expected it to be,” Dow’s Jim Fitterling said March 26 at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference in Houston. Fitterling — a 30-year Dow veteran — now serves as the company’s executive vice president of feedstocks, performance plastics and supply chain.
He added that there are at least 120 energy-related chemical expansions currently announced for the U.S., with more than $100 billion being invested. The four waves of investment cited by Fitterling were:
• Upstream oil and gas producers who “have jumped in with both feet.”
• Makers of products “close to the base,” such as chemicals and steel. “Their bet on the recovery is real and sustainable,” he said.
Ten new U.S. ethane crackers have been announced by petrochemical firms, including one by Dow in Freeport, Texas. Fitterling estimated that six of these eventually will be built, but he added that the scope of the announcements “is indicative of what they think of the investment thesis.” Dow’s Freeport project will include a large amount of new polyethylene capacity.
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