The U.S. will have plenty of natural gas to convert to chemicals and plastics, as well as to export as liquefied natural gas, officials with the American Chemistry Council said in a Dec. 11 conference call.
“The United States has gone from being the highest-cost major gas producer four to five years ago to the current lowest-cost producer,” said ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley, who said extensive shale gas deposits have flipped the cost equation.
Chemical and related industries have announced $45 billion in projects during the next several years. ACC officials did not have a breakdown on what fraction is for plastics and related feedstocks, but said they expect most initial investment to be in established chemical and resin production areas in Texas and Louisiana.
Down the road, shale gas development in the Midwest will spur greenfield investments there.
ACC “will continue to make energy our top priority,” he said, and energy efficiency will be at the front of how the industry operates.
U.S. expansion of chemical and resin production won't curtail similar investments in the Middle East and Asia, said Kevin Swift, ACC chief economist and managing director. Some projects must be located in the markets they serve, he said.
Dooley said ACC will support negotiations for increased trade with the European Union. “There is terrific opportunity for a U.S/EU trade agreement,” Cooley said during the conference call.
“Already there is a 3 percent tariff on chemical exports but that is still a high cost to exporters,” said Dooley, who estimates the current tariff amounts to billions of dollars per year.
ACC also supports collaborative research with the European Union on chemical toxicity. Both regions have common interests in science such as endocrine disruption.
Dooley said ACC is disappointed in the lack of discussion in Congress on approaches to toxic chemicals regulation. “We need to ensure the chemical industry can develop new chemicals while addressing sustainability,” Dooley said.
ACC is encouraged, however, by moves to reform the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dooley and officials held the conference call to outline ACC's strategies for 2013.