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Waiting Game for Chemical Cracker Developers

In the long run, low oil prices will create more demand for chemicals, which will make it easier for companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Odebrecht to pump billions of dollars into new ethylene crackers.

In the short run, such projects may be delayed while crude oil prices, which have dropped by 50 percent since the summer, feel around for a new normal.

To understand why several proposed petrochemical crackers recently announced delays or hesitations about going forward, it’s necessary to separate the oil from the gas.

“The reason everybody was betting on building ethane crackers is because there was a very large difference between oil and natural gas prices,” said Maria Mejia, a natural gas liquids analyst with Bentek Energy, which is headquartered in Colorado.

Ethane crackers turn hydrocarbons into ethylene, a starting point for a variety of chemical products. As feedstock, these plants…

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Blue Racer Enters Agreements for Services in Utica Shale

Blue Racer Midstream LLC (Dallas) has entered into long-term agreements with several Utica Shale natural gas producers to provide integrated midstream services for production in liquids-rich acreage in Monroe, Noble, Guernsey, Belmont, Harrison, and Carroll coun­ties in Ohio. Producers that have made recent dedications to Blue Racer include Eclipse Resources, Hess Corp., CONSOL Energy Inc., and PDC Energy Inc. The com­mitments build on previous commitments to Blue Racer from other producers, among them Chesapeake Energy Corp., TOTAL Gas & Power North America Inc., Rex Energy Corp., and EnerVest. All have made long-term dedications for natural gas gathering, compression, treat­ing, processing, and transportation, as well as for conden­sate handling and fractionation, storage, transportation, and NGL marketing.

Blue Racer’s network of nearly 600 miles of large-diameter gathering pipelines crosses 24 counties in Ohio and West Virginia, and has the current capacity to gather more than…

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Steam Up the Big Muddy, Turn Right at the Ohio

What a voyage. Stillwater, Okla.-based Total Energy’s heavy haul division earlier this year barged six 168-ft-long, 350,000-lb ASME propane tanks from Louisiana to Steubenville, Ohio, plowing the Mighty Mississippi River north through St. Louis to Cairo, Ill. where the Big Muddy meets the Ohio River. After hanging a right into the Mississippi’s largest tributary, it was another long passage northeast to Steubenville, where the 175,000-gal. containers were offloaded for over-the-road delivery to a midstream operator in eastern Ohio’s Utica Shale.

Those half-dozen Bayport and AMF Beaird bullets, manufactured in 1967 and 1971, and a seventh sibling scooped up by another Total Energy customer, had been scheduled to be scrapped by a demolition contractor hired by Chevron that was decommissioning a plant in Erath, La. formerly operated by Texaco. Although the tanks could be salvaged and placed back in service, their daunting…

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Little pellets have lots of uses

HANGING ROCK — Pouring hot coffee into a disposable white Styrofoam cup may be convenient. It just isn’t accurate.

Brian Funk and Carl Darling understand that. Funk makes Styrofoam; Darling makes the stuff that makes the cup. They’re the same and they’re not the same.

Like cousins coming out of a multi-tiered family, the two materials can trace their roots back to the same chemical patriarch, but they have their own individuality and their own function.

“Styrofoam is a solid, blue board,” said Funk, Hanging Rock site leader for Dow Chemical Company. “Styrofoam is a Dow trademark. It’s used for home insulation, commercial insulation.”

It’s not that white cup.

One of six Dow Chemical operations in the United States and Canada, the Hanging Rock plant produces 150 million-4-by-8-board feet of Styrofoam a year.

Those boards dyed with Dow’s trademark robin egg blue…

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