North American Polymer Logistics: Congestion & Opportunities

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of our readers that the North American polymer industry is in the midst of a profound transformation. The development of shale gas resources, by now an old story, is finally starting to show its impact beyond outstanding margins for ethane-based petrochemical products. A veritable wave of investments in ethylene and derivatives is planned for the region. Between 2017 and 2019, ethylene expansions in North America are expected to surpass 11.5 million metric tons.

Ethylene and Derivatives Expansions in North America, 2017-2019

Source: Polymer Consulting Estimates

There are further investments in capacity announced, that continue well into the early half of the next decade. As a result, there is the potential for more than 25 million metric tons of new polymer capacity being built in North America during the first and second wave of investments in the region.

Most if not all of the additional polymers that will be produced in the region are intended for the exports market. Even companies that may not have plans to invest will be forced to increase their exports, as some of their domestic sales get displaced by the new products.

One of the key issues that such unprecedented level of investments will face is the ability of the North American logistical infrastructure to handle the increase in traffic. To put this in perspective, just in the case of polyethylene, exports will need to increase from 27 percent of the total regional production in 2016, to as much as 47% by mid-2018. The additional exports of polyethylene would result in an increase of about 300 thousand TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in container traffic and about 100 thousand additional containers. In 2015, the port of Houston, which is the largest one in terms of polymer traffic, moved just shy of 140 thousand TEUs of polymers.

Top 10 U.S. Ports by Plastic Volume*, 2015

* Overseas Exports & Imports, Inbound & Outbound Shipping. Source: USACE Navigation Data Center, ChemPMC & Polymer Consulting Estimates

There are therefore many questions about what actions are being planned by producers, railroads, truck companies, packaging companies, producers, distributors, and traders, in order to tackle the increase in export volume. ChemPMC, together with Polymer Consulting International, is proposing to exactly investigate this and other issues, in the North American Polymer Logistics: Congestion & Opportunities study.

The study will provide subscribers with a detailed look at the polymer landscape from 2017 to 2021 and the ability to move the production from plant to domestic customers or to a port for export sales. The study is designed to provide a clear and thorough analysis of the logistics chain, focusing on key issues and impediments that the polymer industry will be facing as more and more plants come on stream. For more information about the North American Polymer Logistics: Congestion & Opportunities study, download a copy of the prospectus, or contact Esteban Sagel and/or Bob Bauman at

About Chemical and Polymer Market Consultants

Chemical and Polymer Market Consultants (ChemPMC) is a boutique petrochemical consulting firm, founded by Esteban Sagel in October 2015. Esteban, who holds a Chemical Engineering degree from the Institut Químic de Sarriá (Barcelona, Spain, 1993) and an MBA from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business (Houston, Texas 2003), has over 24 years of experience in the Petrochemical industry that spans two continents and three countries. His career has included positions at chemical producers, consumer product companies, plastic processing equipment producers, and petrochemical consulting companies. Further information available at our website and our LinkedIn page.

About Polymer Consulting International

Polymer Consulting International was formed in November 2008 by Robert J. Bauman (this is his 51st year in the petrochemical/polymer industry). His experience includes 14 years at US Industrial Chemicals (USI), a division of National Distillers and Chemical Corp (NDCC), occupying technical support, operations and corporate planning positions in Texas and New York City. Robert was Vice President Polymers Business Practice and Manager of Latin American Consulting for ChemSystems/Nexant, where he pursued a distinguished consulting career between 1980 and 2008, before founding PCI. Polymer Consulting International focuses on strategy assistance, mergers, and acquisitions, new projects analysis, litigation support, bankruptcy restructuring, and training. Further information available at our website and our LinkedIn page.

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