With the increase in Shale gas E&P activities across the globe, leading with North America, Europe, Argentina and now China the global chemical/petrochemical industry downstream is expected to witness a critical make over due to the supply shortages in various chemical feedstock. Ethylene, propylene, butadiene and benzene are the four building blocks of various chemicals or petrochemicals produced downstream for consumption by end use industries.
Shale Gas is an unconventional, un-associated gas which contains 75-90% Methane, 15-5% Ethane and the rest C3’s and heavier hydrocarbons. With lower percentage of heavier hydrocarbons the supply of propylene, butadiene and benzene are expected to decline with respect to Ethylene supply. Excess of Shale production has resulted into an increasing preference for ethane cracking compared to Naphtha cracking, which would result in a supply shortage for C3’s and above. The result would be lower availability of propylene and other basic chemicals. In order to ensure optimum supply, on purpose technologies are being built in North America and Asia Pacific. On purpose technologies include CTL/CTO (Coal to Liquids/Olefins), MTO/MTP (methanol to olefins/propylene), PDH (propane dehydrogenation) and Metathesis. Use of Coal to produce synthetic fuels and petrochemicals has been present for more than 50 years with Germany utilizing this technology to provide fuel for its units during the 2nd World War. The technology was not utilized due to its high operational cost and lower market feasibility with adequate Crude oil supplies. But the decrease in the use of Crude Oil due to environmental concern opened up opportunities for Coal to be used as a feedstock for production of petrochemicals and synthetic fuels.
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With the increasing production of Shale Gas the demand for ethane cracking has increased hence resulting in a lower yield of propylene. Propane de-hydrogenation operation unlike other operations provides a higher yield of Propylene (82%) ensuring a stable supply for the production of Polypropylene. North America with its expected increase in demand for Polypropylene by 2025, has made investments to increase PDH production capacity by 1.8 Mn MT/y. China has also made investments in PDH operations and has made arrangements with a South Korean trader to supply LPG to its plants. Metathesis which is a technology which was commercialized for the synthesis of higher olefins has also seen traction in the petrochemical industry however, Methanol to Olefin/Propylene technology witnesses a greater growth rate.
China with its anticipated increase in Coal and Natural Gas production is expected to focus on CTO/L operations in the coming years in order to meet its growing demand. China has the biggest Natural Gas reserves in the world, however chooses not to utilize it to its potential. PDH operations in the country are anticipated to witness an increasing trend due to future Natural Gas E&P activities. In India, Tata and Sasol have signed up for a CTL plant in Orissa which is expected to come on stream by 2018. The plant would cost Rs. 90,000 Crores and is expected to provide synthetic fuel and petrochemicals.
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On purpose technologies – Impact of Shale Gas: Drivers & Restraints
With the increase in availability of Natural Gas in North America and higher preference to ethane cracking to take advantage of the cheaper Natural gas the availability of Propylene, butadiene and benzene are expected to decline which are quintessential for the production of downstream petrochemicals and other chemicals. Also, with low Natural Gas prices the technology has become affordable and economical for profitable production of downstream chemicals and petrochemicals.
On purpose technologies – Impact of Shale Gas: Region-wise Outlook
North America is anticipating an increase of 1.8 Mn MT/y of PDH production capacity by end of 2019. China has also started constructing PDH facilities to utilize the feedstock advantage of Coal with CTL plants in China. India is expected to finish its first CTL plant by end of 2019. In South America, Argentina is expected to start E&P activities from its Shale Gas reservoirs which is expected to provide the region an advantageous feedstock position.
On purpose technologies – Impact of Shale Gas: Key Players
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