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Houston — US ethylene exports in the first four months of 2020 were 43% higher than the same period in 2019, reflecting the startup of Enterprise Products Partners' new export terminal along the Houston Ship Channel, the latest data from the US International Trade Commission released June 5 showed.

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The US shipped out 123,752 mt of ethylene in the January-April period, up from 86,515 mt in the year-ago period. Enterprise shipped out its first cargo from the new terminal on January 2.

Enterprise's terminal is the second in the US. The facility is expected to operate at a capacity of 600,000 mt/year pro-rata until a cryogenic storage tank under construction at the Morgan's Point, Texas, terminal comes online in the fourth quarter of 2020, bringing the operation to its full 1 million mt/year capacity, according to Navigator Gas, Enterprise's 50% partner in the venture.

Navigator CEO Henry Deans said on May 29 that the companies have signed contracts for 95% of that eventual full capacity.

Before the new terminal started up, the US had a single 300,000 mt/year ethylene export facility, operated by Targa Resources at its ship channel facility, which is contracted to Mitsubishi Chemical. The facility has a loading capacity of 1,000 mt/d, so it takes about 10 days to load a Handysize vessel. The January-April export data from 2019 reflect outflows from that facility, as the larger one had not come online. Total ethylene exports in 2019 reached 289,107 mt, the data showed.

Monthly data through April in 2020 show the most outflows in January, with 37,350 mt, 92% of which went to Taiwan and Indonesia.

Flows fell to 36,498 mt in February, then 25,800 mt in March and 24,104 mt in April as demand fell amid coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns, the data showed. Taiwan took none in February, but the vast majority of flows in both March and April.