Chemical Industry Poised to Benefit from U.S. Energy Independence

America's heavy reliance on imports of hydrocarbons for fuels and feedstocks long has prompted concern, even fear in some quarters. This dependence has posed significant vulnerabilities for the economy as a whole and the long-term competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing — in effect making them hostage to the availability and cost of foreign supplies. Fortunately, a major change is taking place. Imports are becoming far less of a factor; indeed, the U.S. is poised to enter an era of near self-sufficiency.

January's issue of Chemical Processing provides a glimpse of what's happening on a couple of fronts. In the cover story, “Prospects Brighten for the Chemical Industry,” Thomas Kevin Swift and Martha Gilchrist Moore of the American Chemistry Council declare, “The availability of gas from shale is possibly the most important domestic energy development of the past 50 years. Following a decade of high and volatile natural gas prices that destroyed industrial demand and led to the closure of many gas-intensive manufacturers, shale gas offers a new era of American competitiveness that will lead to greater investment, industry growth and employment.

“U.S. chemical makers have announced more than 50 projects in the past two years to capitalize on the competitive advantage of abundant supplies of natural gas and NGLs [natural gas liquids]. Such projects include new ethylene crackers as well as units for derivative products (i.e., polyethylene, ethylene oxide, etc.), methanol, ammonia and on-purpose ethylene co-products.”

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