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Ethane exports up 90.2% in 2017 from year-ago levels

HOUSTON, March 19, 2018 (PCW) -- US ethane exports rose 85,500 b/d on average in 2017 from 2016 levels, an increase of some 90.2%, according to EIA data. India became the top importer, unseating Canada, with an average of 66,000 b/d in exports in 2017.

Overall, ethane exports hit an all-time high in Nov of 248,000 b/d. The top five importers in 2017 were: India at 66,000 b/d (up about twofold from 2016); Canada at 58,000 b/d (down 11,500 b/d or 16.5%); the United Kingdom at 30,667 b/d (up 14,667 b/d or 91.7%); Norway at 23,083 b/d (up 483 b/d or 2.1%) and Sweden at 6,667 b/d (a nearly two-fold increase from a year ago). India swept past pipeline exports to Canada, thanks to Reliance’s fleet of six dedicated ethane vessels.

These ships can cumulatively transport as much as 4.92 million barrels of ethane, or feed an ethane cracker for about 54 days. The UK’s aggressive uptick was largely due to the completion of the conversion process at Sabic’s cracker in Wilton to use more ethane, rather than naphtha or LPG. Sweden began more regular loadings, largely from Marcus Hook, via Borealis’ dedicated ethane vessel, the Navigator Aurora, which transports ethane to the company’s olefins plant in Stenungsund.

Meanwhile, Brazil proved to be a latecomer to the game, beginning semi-regular loadings from Enterprise Products Partners’ Morgan’s Point terminal in 3Q via two dedicated Navigator vessels.

Ethane exports should best the Nov 2017 high this year, given continued strong loadings to India. There also should be increased pulls to Canada via Kinder Morgan’s 70,000 b/d Utopia Pipeline, which runs from Harrison County, Ohio, to Windsor, Ontario.

NOVA Chemicals is the anchor shipper on that pipeline. Mexico should begin to factor in this year as Pemex seeks to compensate for a regional supply shortfall. Some test cargoes loaded in Jan. In 2019, Ineos takes delivery of the world’s largest ethane vessel – 95,000 bcm or about 900,000 barrels – to deliver US ethane to China’s SP Chemicals’ new ethylene plant in Jiangsu province.

This would effectively up the capacity of the total ethane-dedicated fleet by some 11% and pave the way for China to become a top importer of US ethane in the years to come. -- Samantha Hartke

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