The new revolution: how American shale is transforming European petrochemicals

Calling the US shale revolution a “game-changer” – or indeed, a revolution – has long been abandoned as something of a cliché. And yet, there is a new arena where the cheap and abundant fuel supplies look set to bring about a transformation. North American shale-based ethane feedstocks have already begun to radically alter the European petrochemicals landscape.

But the stage is now also set potentially for a wave of polymer products derived from them to reach European shores as soon as the new year.

We’ve already seen a tremendous acceleration in shale gas uptake: the volume of imported ethane in the year-to-date is almost double that for the whole of 2016. And among other milestones, Ineos ran its Grangemouth, Scotland, steam cracker, fed with US ethane, at full capacity in August for the first time in 17 years. It’s the same cracker that had been mothballed nine years earlier. And, for the first time, North American gas was distributed on European territory by pipeline when Ineos supplied imported ethane from its import terminal in Grangemouth to Exxon Mobil’s cracker in Mossmorran.

Still greater impact will emerge as a growing surplus of shale-based derivative products in the US, as well as feedstock gas, begin to get directed to markets globally including Europe, raising the stakes for European petrochemical producers. In the wake of soaring competition from across the Atlantic, we examine all the options for EMEA companies – from importing feedstocks through downstream products to innovation and overseas investment – as they strive to improve their productivity and performance – as well as the bottom line.

This report also includes a special focus on crude oil and naphtha, LNG, shipping and logistics, and the economic outlook for many key players in the sector. Read on for a comprehensive exploration of the new shale wave, the way to ride it, and how some petrochemicals companies are already doing so.

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Resident-led action group seeking redress from the long-term social, health and environmental impacts from the Mossmorran facilities in Central Fife operated by ExxonMobil (Fife Ethylene Plant) and Shell (Fife NGL).


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