Catching Up with the Petrochemical Industry

While heating oil, automobile fuel, and compressed gas may own a bigger share of the spotlight, the petrochemical sector remains an integral part of the petroleum industry. Refineries fabricate petrochemicals at extreme pressures and temperatures to create compounds that serve as a cornerstone for virtually innumerable products.

Oil, natural gas, coal, and other sources are the primary raw materials for petrochemicals, creating building block compounds that include Benzene, Butadiene, Ethylene, Propylene, Toluene, and Xylene. Final products from these chemicals include plastics, solvents, soaps, paints, drugs, flooring materials, electronic equipment, and many others.

Weathering the Storm

With a list of output like this, the continued success of the petrochemical industry would seem inevitable. And yet, petrochemical processing relies on the continued extraction and refinement of petroleum, an industry that has been taking a beating these days by a glut in supply and low prices.

The industry continues to move forward, however. In a meeting earlier this year, petrochemical officials expressed cautious optimism. Leaders from Phillips 66 and Total (based in Paris) stated that they were looking to expand their investments in petrochemical refineries in Texas and the Middle East, foreseeing the ultimate expansion of the petrochemical industry in spite of current difficulties in oil refining.

How Has the Industry Fared?

While not undergoing a boom, petrochemical production continues to give investors many reasons to be optimistic. The month of May saw gains in the entire U.S. chemical industry nudging upwards; what’s more, the abundant supply of natural gas from America’s shale rock deposits has created a cost-advantage for domestic producers, as well as opportunities for an increased export market.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Recent industry research has projected that the global natural gas liquids market is likely to double within the next eight years — due in part to the use of Ethane in worldwide petrochemical applications.  Petrochemical refining plants in Texas will not be left out, as North America is currently second only to the Middle East for market share in natural gas.

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Current signs seem positive for the petrochemical sector, but long-term success remains uncertain. At Southwest Process Controls, we will continue reporting on changes in the industry as we encounter them. Keep checking in with our blog for details on the latest trends; or, for questions about our high-quality fittings, locks, gauges, and valves, contact us directly.