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Shale-Driven Chemical Investment Keeps Growing

About 40% of the U.S. chemical industry investment being spurred by the American shale gas revolution is either completed or under way, with another 55% in the planning phase, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

U.S. shale-driven chemical industry investment planned or in progress has reached $164 billion in total, accounting for 264 projects: new facilities, expansions and factory re-starts, ACC's Owen Kean, senior director of energy policy, said at a Hudson Institute event Wednesday in Washington, DC.

Natural gas and natural gas liquids, particularly ethane, from shales have been a boon to the domestic chemical industry for a while now, providing both feedstock and plant fuel. Just over two years ago, ACC tallied up the shale-related projects and found 148 worth about $100.2 billion (see Shale DailyFeb. 21, 2014).

"It's a stunning reversal of fortune from just a few years ago, when the chemical industry was losing market share -- and jobs -- to competitors abroad," Kean said Wednesday. "America enjoys a robust supply outlook, expected to last for decades, and a price environment that's the envy of the world. Our country has become the most attractive place in the world to make chemicals, and a historic wave of expansion and investment is under way."

ACC analysis shows that $164 billion in capital spending could lead to $105 billion per year in new chemical industry output and support 738,000 permanent new jobs across the U.S. economy by 2023, including 69,000 new chemical industry jobs, 357,000 jobs in supplier industries and 312,000 jobs in communities where workers spend their wages. Much of the investment is geared toward export markets, which can help improve the U.S. trade balance, ACC said.

The data update the ACC report "Shale Gas, Competitiveness, and New U.S. Chemical Industry Investment -- An Analysis of Announced Projects" that was published in May 2013. It examined nearly 100 chemical and plastics projects totaling $71.7 billion in potential investment announced as of March 2013 (see Shale DailyMay 21, 2013).

It's not just the domestic chemical industry that is benefiting from U.S. shale-produced feedstock. Ethane exports from the United States are making inroads into overseas chemical feedstock markets. For instance, Switzerland-based INEOS Group Ltd. recently said that a long-shuttered manufacturing unit at its ethane cracker in Scotland was back online in advance of U.S. ethane deliveries that are expected to arrive there this fall (see Shale Daily,March 29).

Meanwhile, Enterprise Products Partners LP late last year finished its Aegis ethane pipeline, which supplies Gulf Coast chemical facilities and soon will feed a Gulf Coast export terminal (see Daily GPIDec. 31, 2015).

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