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Global Ethane Trade 2019-2030

“The abundance of US ethane has created opportunities for seaborne ethane trade to develop. NGLS’s report provides an insight into this growing seaborne market and drivers for future projects”


What changes are expected in seaborne trade through to 2025 and why?

  • Ethane production has reached an all-time high in the US
  • The unprecedented production volumes have resulted in large ethane rejection and low ethane prices in the US making it attractive as a feedstock for the production of ethylene via steam cracking.
  • As the first wave of new US ethane-based ethylene plants is coming into operation, a second wave appears on the horizon increasing even further the domestic demand.
  • Currently ethane is exported from two US terminals: one in the Gulf and one in the North East with potential new terminals under discussion.
“What is the expectation for US ethane supply towards 2030? How much will be consumed in new steam cracker projects and therefore what will be the availability for export? Will this result in higher ethane prices? How much additional export terminal capacity could be required?”


Which countries/projects will be the key potential importers in the medium/long-term?

  • An ethane cracker is the most efficient ethylene plant to build. US sourced ethane is expected to remain the lowest cost vs naphtha for the production of ethylene in Europe and the Far East.
  • US ethane is currently imported into a number of projects in Europe, Latin America and Asia. There have been announcements of future developments particularly in China.
  • With a number of potential projects in China, which currently is a large ethylene importer, the startup of new ethane steam crackers could influence petchem gas seaborne trade.
“Who will be the next importers of ethane from the US? China shows the most potential for future volume, but how many projects have the potential to go ahead? What countries/projects have realistic potential to import ethane from the US? How will the ethane seaborne trade market impact ethylene seaborne trade?”


How many new vessels could the market require to satisfy the new seaborne trade demand?

  • As seaborne trade began to be established from the US, a number of companies invested in a fleet of ethane capable vessels specific to the underlined projects.

  • With increased voyages expected, particularly from the US to Asia, ton mileage is expected to rise and hence a new ethane fleet is expected to emerge.

  • Shipping length will depend on Asian projects primarily and vessel size.

“How many vessels will be required to satisfy the market based on anticipated new projects? What would be the most desired sizes for the expected future trades and what will be the effect on vessel supply/demand?”

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