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US ethane exports up nearly 60% year-on-year

HOUSTON, May 17, 2017 (PCW) -- US ethane exports have increased nearly 60% from when they first began in March 2016 through February, going from about 84,500 b/d to 135,000 b/d in February, according to EIA data.

Exports first began from the Marcus Hook terminal in Pennsylvania, which almost exclusively sees ethane transported using Ineos Dragon Class ships, of which there are now seven on the water with a total capacity of 1.82 million bbls of standard ethane.

In September, Enterprise Products Partners started up its 200,000 b/d terminal at Morgan’s Point on the Houston Ship Channel. It also initially loaded Ineos vessels until December, when India’s Reliance sent its first ethane vessel, the Ethane Crystal, to Morgan’s Point. Reliance now has six such ships on the water with a total capacity of 4.92 million bbls.

 In December as well, Sabic sent its first ethane ship, the Gaschem Beluga, to Morgan’s Point. That vessel has since seen regular service between the EPD terminal and Sabic’s cracker at Teesside in the United Kingdom. Sabic is awaiting delivery on its second ethane ship, the Gaschem Orca, in July. Upon that delivery, Sabic’s fleet with be able to transport 720,000 bbls.

Additionally, Braskem has been occasionally loading from Morgan’s Point, so far using the Gaschem Atlantic, which can move about 78,000 bbls.

The addition of the Reliance and Sabic vessel last year has marked a sea change in terms of the flows of ethane from the US to international markets. Prior to the start-up of these terminals, Canada was the biggest importer of US ethane (51%) – but that was via pipeline to Nova Chemicals’ crackers in Alberta and Ontario.

 Waterborne exports now make up the lion’s share. While Canada is still the largest importer for the year-to-date, its share has fallen to 30%, while India’s has risen considerably (28%). UK’s share has also increased from 6% in 2016 to 15% for the year-to-date and its growth should accelerate with the July ship delivery. -- Samantha Hartke

PetroChem Wire monitors ethane vessel movements in its NGLs Week report. Click here to contact us about a trial.

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