AFPM IPC ’17: State of the Petrochemical Industry – A Wild Ride?

SAN ANTONIO -- The first morning of AFPM’s International Petrochemical Conference featured a session on the State of the Petrochemical Industry. 

Phyllis Kulkarni, Regional Director North America at Independent Project Analysis provided data on capital expenditure, commentary on North America as an attractive location for capital investment, and advice on best practices, modularization and standardization.

Capital is returning to America because of low-cost feedstock, Kulkarni said, but she cautioned for the need to have unrelenting focus on justifying capital budgets with a lean scope and minimizing capital costs to meet budgeted targets.

Steven Zinger, head of chemical research Americas at Wood McKenzie, entitled his presentation “Watching for Signs of a Wild Ride.” He developed this theme along multiple strands: Crude, China, Feedstocks, Trade, Technology and unknowns.

With crude oil, it is the price changes relative to natural gas which is volatile. With China, it’s the pace of economic growth and drive towards self-sufficiency. With feedstocks, ethane is now a free market and – as solid polyethylene – can be produced anywhere there is rail capacity.

In Trade, volatility is the increased dependency on growing export demand, particularly for propane as petrochemical feedstock. Technology in the form of shale gas extraction was a disrupter in traditional naphtha sources for cracking to produce ethylene: what will be the next disruptive technology? As for Unknowns, we still do not know all that may be developing, but be ready, there will be more!

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