By - Jim Vess

U.S. expands reach as world’s top export of ethane, shipping to 10 countries in 2018

Energize Weekly, February 13, 2019

The United States—the world’s top exporter of ethane—increased its reach in 2018, sending the gas, a key feedstock in petrochemical manufacturing, to 10 countries, according to federal data.

The U.S. surpassed Norway as the top export of ethane in 2015. Ethane is used in a wide range of products including plastics, antifreeze, detergents and as a refrigerant. Norway is the only other country that ships internationally.

U.S. exports went from almost zero in 2013 to 260,000 barrels a day through the first 10 months of 2018, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA)—equal to about 17 percent of U.S. hydrocarbon gas exports.

In the past, American exports have largely gone to Canada. In 2014 and 2015, all U.S. exports went to Canada. There are three pipelines carrying ethane to Canada.

“Recent completion of the Utopia pipeline—from Ohio to Ontario—has facilitated more ethane exports to Canada, and ethane exports are expected to grow, along with the capacity of the Canadian petrochemical industry to process the ethane into ethylene,” the EIA said.

In 2018, however, those exports went to a broader range of countries. After Canada, India and the United Kingdom were the two largest importers of U.S. ethane. Other importing countries included Mexico, Norway, Brazil and Sweden.

Two marine terminals capable of shipping super-cooled ethane overseas also went into operation in 2018, and additional export facilities are also under construction. Exports from Marcus Hook, Pa., the EIA said, are likely to increase with the completion of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will deliver ethane to the terminal.

The Orbit Ethane Export Terminal at Nederland, Texas on the Gulf Coast, is being built by Energy Transfer Partners, a subsidiary of Sunoco Logistics. It is slated to go into service in 2020.

The terminal will have the capacity to export 175,000 barrels a day of ethane, with 150,000 of that capacity already committed to Satellite Petrochemicals of China for its two newly built petrochemical crackers.

Altogether, current U.S. export capacity totals nearly 450,000 barrels a day, the EIA said.

American Ethane, a Russian-funded enterprise in a joint venture with Martin Midstream Partners, is now building a 480,000-barrel-a-day export terminal on the Neches River near Beaumont, Texas. The facility aims to supply planned petrochemical crackers in China.

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