Although regional ethane supplies have increased significantly given shale gas drilling expansion, the resource is being underutilized locally at present, according to Aither Chemicals CEO Leonard Dolhert, who offered keynote remarks during Pittsburgh Chemical Day, an annual industry meeting held Sept. 25.
Because there are currently no ethane crackers operating in the Marcellus and Utica Shale states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the region has yet to fully maximize the economic potential of ethane, which could be used locally to manufacture petrochemicals, produce plastics and create component materials for various consumer goods, according to Dolhert.
He said plans are underway to pipe ethane from the Appalachian region to the U.S. Gulf Coast and Canada. “Use it, or lose it,” exclaimed Dolhert, who urged potential investors, political leaders, labor unions, business officials, and individuals to support building ethane crackers locally.
In addition to the resources associated with shale gas, Dolhert cited several other regional advantages, such as existing transportation and manufacturing infrastructure, an experienced labor force, favorable brownfield policies, world-class universities and corporations.
Dolhert contended forthcoming ethane supplies could warrant building multiple ethane crackers, in the form of scalable plants using Aither’s catalytic technology and also using steam crackers such as that proposed by Shell Chemical Co.