A Gas-Powered Renaissance
Plastics play an unprecedented role in almost every part of our daily lives. It’s impossible to go through a single day without coming into contact with some kind of plastic: water bottles, cell phones, automobile parts, keyboards for computers, chairs, tables, sunglasses, and just about everything else.
The petrochemical industry makes all of those plastics from various hydrocarbon “feedstock.” You may not realize it, but the shale gas revolution in North America is playing an important role in creating a true renaissance in petrochemical manufacturing in the United States.
The reason is that in most parts of the world, the feedstock for petrochemicals comes from crude oil-price related products such as naphtha. Here in North America, they can largely use natural gas liquids (NGLs) instead. These NGLs (mostly ethane and propane) are produced alongside natural gas and are less expensive than their crude-oil based counterparts. Ethane and propane can be converted in compounds called olefins – ethylene and propylene – which is what petrochemical companies use to make plastics and other petrochemicals. The availability of abundant, relatively inexpensive feedstock right here in North America is creating a boom in petrochemical manufacturing. That means more jobs and even an increase in exports, helping the U.S. trade balance.
Williams is helping make this renaissance happen with our olefins business in both the United States and Canada. Our facilities in Canada recover more than 17,000 barrels per day of an NGL/olefins mixture and our Geismar facility in Louisiana converts ethane and propane into olefins by using high-temperature, low-pressure processes. Petrochemical companies in the U.S. and Canada take the olefins we recover and produce and turn them into the plastics and other petrochemicals that we use every day.
Alan Armstrong, Williams’ president and chief executive officer, said the olefins business is another example of how the company helps its customers get full value out of our resources in North America.
“Our olefins business is a great example of how Williams’ infrastructure services help our customers take advantage of the great resources we have here,” Armstrong said. “Whether it is providing gas transmission lines that get it to power generators that can use it as clean, cheap resource for providing electricity, or the more complex route of taking NGLs and converting them into olefins for the petrochemical industry, we want to be the large-scale infrastructure company that makes it happen.”