If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Dow Plans More U.S. Investment

Shale Gas: Chemical maker discloses plans for Gulf Coast polymer facilities

by Michael McCoy
March 21, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 12

Credit: Dow
Dow will build an ethylene cracker at this site in Freeport, Texas.
A chemical plant near a body of water.
Credit: Dow
Dow will build an ethylene cracker at this site in Freeport, Texas.

Dow Chemical will construct several Gulf Coast chemical plants and supply raw materials to a major U.S. facility planned by a Japanese joint venture. Together, the projects demonstrate how U.S. investment in chemical manufacturing based on low-cost natural gas from shale is going beyond basic commodities to include high-value derivatives.

As several other large chemical producers have done, Dow already announced plans to build an ethylene cracker on the Gulf Coast. Now, the largest U.S. chemical maker says it will add several downstream polymer facilities at yet-to-be-determined locations.

Among the new Dow projects are a low-density polyethylene plant serving packaging and telecommunication markets, an “enhanced” polyethylene facility making polymers for packaging and medical applications, and a facility producing elastomers for hot-melt adhesives. Dow also restated previous plans to build an ethylene-propylene elastomer plant.

The new polymer facilities will require up to 3,000 workers at the peak of construction, Dow says. All of its Gulf Coast projects will employ 5,000 workers during peak construction and support more than 35,000 jobs in the broader U.S. economy, the company claims.

Dow’s building boom is a radical shift from just a few years ago, when it was scaling back its U.S. manufacturing presence and concentrating investment abroad. “Trends in U.S. shale gas have led us to make different decisions about where and how we invest for global growth,” says CEO Andrew N. Liveris.

Dow’s Japanese partners, Idemitsu Kosan and Mitsui & Co., also see new opportunity in the U.S. They plan to build a 330,000-metric-ton-per-year linear α-olefins facility on the Gulf Coast by 2016. The plant will consume ethylene from Dow’s production grid and supply comonomers for Dow polymers.

After the flurry of ethylene cracker announcements, such derivatives facilities are a necessary second wave of shale-gas-related investments, according to Mark Eramo, vice president for chemical market insights at the consulting firm IHS Chemical. Given the U.S. market’s limited capacity to absorb all of the new capacity, Eramo expects that much of it will be exported to Latin America and Asia.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.