Shale gas drives new opportunities for US downstream

I saw this interesting HP article that I wanted to share with the refining community.  In the past when speaking with catalyst manufacturers, I asked about FCC operation limiting gasoline production because there is a global naphtha glut which will only get worse with the use of more tight oil from shale (high content naphtha crude oil).  Catalyst manufacturers indicated the economics were not there to crack gasoline further into petrochemical feeds.  However, inexpensive shale gas is driving ethane crackers leaving a shortage of propylene.  I anticipate more consideration for naphtha crackers; although naphtha feed is more expensive than ethane, it gives petrochemical producers a wide variety of co-product options, whereas ethane crackers are essentially limited to ethylene production.  Looks like economics are changing, and I anticipate more refining-petrochemical integration to give flexibility in product slates... fuels vs. petrochemicals.

Below is the summary, with the full article in Hydrocarbon Processing.  Please reply to this discussion thread in the EE365 Community. What are your thoughts?

"...The refining and petrochemical industries are facing a new era, following the abundance of available shale gas, associated with new upstream production techniques. This cheap feedstock is driving the economics for numerous future steam cracker projects, which is expected to create a production gap for other petrochemical base molecules.  The FCC process must be viewed as a key unit to address such imbalances, through deeper integration with petrochemical facilities. The inherent flexibility of the FCC to shift to changing market conditions is further enhanced through innovative downstream processing options. To offset reduced gasoline margins, the lighter fraction of FCC naphtha (150°F-) may be recycled for added propylene production.

Not only is the production of propylene and other petrochemical feedstocks important but so is their recovery. Smart and effective integration of traditional refinery units with petrochemical units inside a larger overall complex    results in a production facility that can be extremely flexible to changing economic conditions. Such a facility can extract    the maximum value from crude oils and other feeds with maximum efficiency. Larger and more complex integrated production facilities that are flexible to changing economic realities are the future. Recent advancements in both hardware and catalyst technology mean that the FCC will continue to serve as the key link between the bottom and the top of the barrel for years to come, as it always has been."

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