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Ethane prices in US Gulf Coast fall to 10-year low on high inventories (3-12-2012)
 
The US Gulf Coast non-LST purity ethane assessment has fallen to its lowest level since August 2002, mainly on increasing supplies form shale gas plays across the US, as per Platts. Ethane has fallen 68% on the year, based on the Platts assessment Thursday. It was heard trading slightly stronger Friday morning at 26.375 cents/gal and E/P mix was heard trading at 22.5 cents/gal.
"Ethane is at an all-time high inventory and there are no petrochemical plants to take in the surplus ethane," a Gulf Coast NGL trader said.
According to the American Petroleum Institute's inventory report for September total ethane inventory was at 34.11 million barrels, up 59% from last September. Based on Platts estimates, current ethane cracking margins for petrochemical plants are about 33.76 cents/lb. However, cracker margins for ethane/propane mix and propane are stronger than ethane cracking margins.
The current heating value and the cracker margin levels of ethane imply that ethane prices have the possibility of falling fall even lower, traders said.
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