A specialty at MATRIC | Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center is working with chemical companies to improve and create technologies used in production. The materials these chemical firms produce in turn generate hundreds of consumer products and create significant economic output.
MATRIC Chief Executive Steve Hedrick moderated during the 2013 Marcellus to Manufacturing (M2M) Ethane Development Conference in Charleston, W.Va. Discussion highlighted the potential resurgence of a previously waning chemical industry within the Northeast, reinvigorated by a burgeoning supply of shale gas, but still encumbered by a lack of regional production capabilities.
A great benefit of both the Marcellus and Utica shales is their relatively large deposits of natural gas liquids (NGLs), or “wet gas,” composed of higher molecular weight constituents and inclusive of large amounts of ethane. Additionally, large volumes of propane and butane are available. Hence, methane availability combined with NGLs represents a significant opportunity for chemical industry expansion in the region.
Ethane is the primary building block for ethylene, the largest industrial chemical in the world. Given the current lack of local chemical manufacturing demand for ethane, the resource is underutilized. The value chain associated with ethane and ethylene is significant, as it is used in production of more than 90% of consumer goods globally.
The M2M conference highlighted both public and private sector efforts to establish a renewed chemical industry in the Northeast, via workforce, infrastructure and investment initiatives.