|The economic downturn since 2008 has dramatically affected petrochemical demand and a loss of business confidence also triggered industry wide de-stocking and drastic cutbacks in petrochemical production. Signs of economic recovery started appearing in the H2-2009, albeit slowly; with Chinese economic growth a key driving force. As per Nexant�s ChemSystems analysis, despite several delays, the olefins industry faces a massive capacity increase, coming to market at the time when consumption is considerably below expected levels. The bulk of the new investments are mega sized and highly advantaged plants in the Middle East. The others are mostly large and highly integrated plants in China, which benefit from optimised refinery/feedstock integration, low labour costs and proximity to market. Other less advantaged investments are being postponed or cancelled, and large volumes of olefin and derivatives capacity are being shut down in mature, high cost regions such as Japan, Western Europe and the United States.
The petrochemical industry through all these changes continues to be highly cyclical and commoditised, and finding ways to optimize production and minimize cost. The ability to use alternate feedstock is one of the key criteria in achieving lowest cost production especially in an environment where feedstock prices have become highly volatile. Global consumption of feedstock was estimated at over 600 mln tons in 2009 in the production of basic petrochemicals. Naphtha dominates the mix and represents half of total feedstock consumption followed by methane and coal, which together account for just over 25% of feedstock consumption. Total global feedstock consumption is projected to reach 1 bln tons by 2025.
Around 300 million tons of feedstock was consumed globally in 2009 in the production of ethylene, with naphtha contributing to almost two thirds total feedstock, followed by ethane which together account for one quarter of total feedstock consumed. It is forecast that feedstock demand for ethylene alone will increase to exceed half a billion ton by 2025.
Over the past decade, coal has resumed its status as a significant alternative feedstock where liquid and gas feeds have been preferred. Abetted by significant and widespread coal reserves and a high growth rate of energy, steel and chemical consumption, China has drawn on coal as a feedstock to reduce import requirements. An increasing awareness of the impact of fossil fuel and coal use on the environment has resulted in a continual search for less polluting feedstock. Demand for biological hydrocarbon such as ethanol has surged as it can be derived from sugar cane and other sources which are considered to be renewable. For the energy industry, bio fuels involve unprecedented dynamics, such as demand driven by social and political issues rather than customers or economics. Biological hydrocarbon seems more attractive as oil prices rise, but continued huge investments, advanced researches, new technologies, and government support will be required to enable commercial production.
The oil and gas industry produces hydrocarbons major used as fuel for power, heating, and transportation. Chemical feedstock obtained from crude oil and other hydrocarbons include naphtha, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Petrochemical feedstock account for a relatively small proportion of the total.