Europe left behind as shale shock drives America’s industrial resurgence
Royal Dutch Shell is planning an ethane plant in the once-decaying steel valley of Beaver County, near Pittsburg. Dow Chemical is shutting operations in Belgium, Holland, Spain, the UK, and Japan, but pouring money into a propylene venture in Texas where natural gas prices are a fraction of world levels and likely to remain so for the life-cycle of Dow’s investments.
Some fifty new projects have been unveiled in the US petrochemical industry. A $30bn investment blitz in underway in ethelyne and fetilizer plants alone.
America looks poised to become the world’s biggest producer in 2014. It will approach the Holy Grail of « energy independence » before the end of the decade. This is largely due to hydraulic fracturing – blasting rock with water jets – to extract shale gas and oil.
Europe is going in the opposite direction, drifting towards energy suicide. So is Japan as it shuts down its nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster. As of last week, US natural gas prices were roughly one third of European levels. The German chemicals group BASF said it had become impossible to match the US on production costs. Prices on the Pacific rim are near $15 per million British thermal units (BTU), compared to $3 in the US.
Grâce aux radicaux du PQ, au Québec on va faire comme l’Europe; on va regarder le train passer…