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U.S. shale-gas boom offers opportunities for Latin America

By: Stephen Downer

October 17, 2012

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO (Oct. 17, 12:20 p.m. ET) — The shale-gas boom in the United States will add enough ethane/propane to expand light olefin and derivative production in the 2014-16 time period by between 6 billion and 10 billion pounds and offer processors from Mexico to Patagonia unrivaled business growth opportunities, according to a leading authority on the subject.

“It’s being forecast that the United States will once again become an important supplier of polyethylene to the rest of the world, especially Mexico,” Rina Quijada, chief executive of Houston-based IntelliChem Inc, which provides market intelligence for the petrochemical and plastics industries in Latin America, told a plastics industry conference in late September.

“Technically,” she said, “shale gas can be developed profitably today. Estimated reserves in the U.S. are 750 trillion cubic feet.”

Latin America’s ongoing economic growth will mean greater demand in the region for finished goods, including containers, film and plastic parts for the automotive industry, she said in a Spanish-language presentation. “This will continue from 2012 through 2017.”

Referring to the Brazilian, Mexican and Argentine automotive industries in particular, she added that the content of plastics in light vehicles will keep increasing while the region will continue to import many of its resins.

“From Mexico to Patagonia, regional producers will be much more proactive in their search for more diverse and competitive supply sources. Commercial business opportunities will increase,” she said.

Quijada was a speaker at the annual convention of the Mexican plastics industry association Anipac (Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico AC), held in Guanajuato.