Borealis Pushing Ahead With U.S. Ethane Import Plan to Cut Costs

Borealis AG, an Austrian petrochemical company controlled by Abu Dhabi, signed a long-term ethane supply contract with Antero Resources as it pushes ahead with a plan to import cheaper U.S. feedstock for its plant in Sweden.

Navigator Holdings will undertake the shipping of ethane from the U.S., with the construction of a new vessel underway, the Vienna-based company said in a statement. Borealis’ steam cracker in Stenungsund will see a multi-million investment to upgrade the facility and the construction of an ethane storage tank, it said without giving further details.

“We need to take advantage of the significant shift in ethane availability triggered by the U.S. shale gas boom,” Borealis Chief Executive Officer Mark Garrett said in the statement. “In an increasingly challenging environment in Europe, this is an exciting opportunity to increase the competitiveness of our integrated polyolefins business.”

Borealis is joining Ineos Group Holdings, Europe’s other owner of flexible crackers that can operate on ethane rather than naptha, in tapping cheap feedstock from the U.S.’s Marcellus and Utica shale formations as North Sea energy supplies wane.

A rennaissance in the U.S. chemical industry, fueled by shale, and increased production in the Middle East and China poses a threat to European plants. While BASF SE’s petrochemical facilities are fully integrated into its naphtha cracker, helping maximize efficiency, isolated petrochemical plants will face the greatest cost presssure.

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