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APIC: Technology changes to revolutionize propylene as fracking did US gas, says WoodMac

Seoul — Looming changes in the manufacture of propylene over the next few years are akin to the explosion in hydraulic fracturing that revolutionized US natural gas and then oil production, Wood Mackenzie analyst Stephen Zinger said Thursday, May 7.

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Speaking at the Petrochemical Industry Conference in Seoul, Zinger, vice president chemicals research at the global consultancy, said he "can't emphasize enough" how much of an impact a ramping up of propane dehydrogenation and methanol-to-olefins/propylene output would have. B

eyond 2020, he said, there would be a "reasonable return" for on-purpose technologies.

The application of these technologies would significantly boost on-purpose propylene production, with PDH investments in North America repairing the propylene shortage to such an extent that on-purpose propylene production would push above 30% of supply by 2020, he said.


Dow, Enterprise Products Partners and Formosa all have PDH projects under way, he said, and the first two, as well as Williams, Ascend, BASF, Sunoco and FHR Petrologistics, are mooted to be considering building yet more units.

In 2005, on-purpose propylene production was less than 5% of North American output, while in 2015, that percentage has just topped the 10% mark, according to Wood Mackenzie data.

In Asia, meanwhile, it is methanol and coal-to-olefins/propylene technology as well as PDH that is the coming force, Zinger said, adding that there too on-purpose propylene production would top 30% of output by 2020.

In 2005, Asian on-purpose propylene production was around the 5% mark, while in 2015, that percentage has topped the 10% mark and is due a steep ramp up through 2017 to 20% plus, according to WoodMac.

Zinger sees some 4.33 million mt/year of PDH capacity or eight units coming online in China by 2020 and 900,000 mt/year in South Korea joining it by the end of the period in question.

But the amount of methanol and coal-based output set to come online in China by 2020 will double the PDH capacity on its way, Zinger said, predicting that some 8.53 million mt of capacity or 29 units will be built.

--Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@platts.com
--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@platts.com