Growth in ethylene capacity has broken all historical records in recent years, with multiple world-scale crackers constructed in Texas and Louisiana. Even as ExxonMobil commissions a new cracker in Texas this month, another 8 billion pounds of new capacity is planned to be brought online during the remaining months of 2018.

Formosa, Sasol and Shintech each have new units planned to be completed and operational before the end of this year. Indorama expects to restart a unit originally built in the 1980s by the end of the year. This new capacity comes at a time when storage caverns are reaching designed capacity, pipelines are full, and prices for the commodity are at their lowest point in years.

The short-term relief to some of this new capacity is the planned startup for several downstream polyethylene (PE) units and expansions. For the long term, IIR Energy is tracking 20 planned PE units that are expected to startup between now and 2023.

Ethylene exports will play an increasingly important role in making a home for even more world-scale ethylene capacity. Currently, three such terminals are planned, with another two or more expected to be announced.

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