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Shale-based complex relying on U.S. shale gas takes shape in China

Facility would be China’s first fed exclusively by ethane

by Jean-François Tremblay
April 26, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 18

A photograph of an ethane gas carrier ship.
Credit: Ineos
U.S. ethane will soon head to China in carriers such as this one.

Zhejiang Satellite Petrochemical is moving along with plans to build a giant petrochemical complex fed by U.S. shale-gas-derived ethane in eastern China. The complex, scheduled to start up in late 2020, will feature two ethylene crackers with a combined production capacity of 2.5 million metric tons per year.

Satellite earlier this month licensed production technology from CB&I to use in the project. CB&I, a Texas-based energy services firm, will provide process design as well as process licenses for what will become China’s first crackers exclusively fed by ethane, according to CB&I.

In March, Satellite and the U.S. firm Energy Transfer Partners agreed to form a joint venture to build a gas export terminal on the U.S. Gulf Coast for the loading of shale gas onto special ships called very large ethane carriers.

Listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange, Satellite is one of the few privately owned Chinese companies active in petrochemicals, a sector otherwise dominated by state-owned firms like Sinopec or PetroChina. Satellite’s core products are acrylic-based chemicals like glacial acrylic acid and superabsorbent polymers.

Satellite will build the new complex in Lianyungang, an industrial city in the coastal province of Jiangsu where chemical plants from many companies already operate.

The rise of the shale gas industry in the U.S. is having an increasingly significant impact on the Chinese petrochemical industry, which traditionally has used naphtha and methanol—some of which is derived from coal—as feedstocks. Late last year, Ineos agreed to supply U.S. ethane to a petrochemical plant being built in Taixing, Jiangsu, by the Chinese firm SP Chemicals. Ineos is building what it calls the world’s largest ethane carrier to fulfill its contract with SP.


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