[ID] => 10628
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2019-02-19 12:46:16
[post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-19 12:46:16
[post_content] => This month’s HCB has more than the usual flavour of North America to it, as we look ahead to the upcoming AFPM International Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio. The annual event represents the biggest gathering of chemical producers and their logistics service providers in the US calendar and, as with similar events in Europe in recent years, is sure to attract experts from the realm of digitisation.
But, for businesses in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries in the US, Industry 4.0 is not the only big change currently underway. The shale oil and gas boom has brought with it a fundamental upheaval in the economics of upstream activities and the refining and distribution sectors, with change still continuing.
The US has turned from an LNG importer to a major exporter; crude oil export volumes are limited only by terminal capacity (with more projects in the wings); the US is now the dominant source of cargoes for large LPG carriers; and it has single-handedly created a market for ethane, a product of the NGL fractionation process that was, in the early days of shale gas, being given away for want of a viable end market.
All of this has placed great demands on the supply chain which, in the early days of shale at least, struggled to cope. The motor of change in the supply has really been found in the relatively new breed of ‘midstream’ operators, most often incorporated as master limited partnerships to take advantage of preferential tax treatment. With the backing of institutional investors, they have laid pipelines to handle the new product flows, both up- and downstream of refineries and fractionators, and built inland and marine terminals to help even out those flows and provide places to hold product.
The easy availability of cost-advantaged feedstock, most often in the form of ethane, has also led to a surge in new construction in the petrochemicals sector, generating new streams of ethylene and – especially now some operators are building propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants – propylene. That is opening up opportunities for chemical companies to add capacity further downstream, thus far primarily aimed at the domestic market.
But, as those production volumes increase, manufacturers are beginning to consider their route to overseas markets. That will require a completely different approach to that taken for bulk liquids (crude oil, LNG, LPG and ethane) and is likely to be a significant generator of new demand for players in the multimodal sectors.
It is noticeable that some of the major multimodal players are already making moves and getting prepared for what may turn out to be a bumper year. In this issue we report on how tank container lessor Seaco and operator M&S Logistics are readying themselves for what may turn out to be a major increase in export volumes stemming from the US Gulf.
Over the past couple of years, some midstream operators have been investing heavily in expanding and enhancing bulk liquid export capabilities, not least in the Houston area, and it seems likely that the same thing will have to be done in terms of container and tank container handling capacity, along with greater provision of tank container storage, cleaning and repair facilities.
There is plenty of work to be done if the opportunities are to be realised. Time to get moving. Peter Mackay
[post_title] => Editor's letter to America
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
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[post_name] => editors-letter-america-2
[post_modified] => 2019-02-19 12:46:16
[post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-19 12:46:16
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[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=10628
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Editor’s letter to America
// By Peter Mackay on 19 Feb 2019
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