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This Year's Best News For U.S. Shale Gas

Comes from Scotland. In the petrochemicals sector.

As I discussed on Monday, the fate of U.S. natural gas production is increasingly tied to liquids. Commodities like ethane and propane produced alongside natgas from shale wells.

Selling these co-products has allowed many gas producers to stay profitable, even at low natgas prices.

And now the rest of the world wants a piece of America's growing natural gas liquids supply.

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Especially European petrochemical giant Ineos. Who said this week it will build an ethane import terminal at its Grangemouth ethylene cracker complex in Scotland.

Ineos' Grangemouth facility formerly sourced feedstock ethane from nearby North Sea gas fields. But with natgas liquids production falling here, the company is looking further afield for supply. The new import terminal will allow the company to bring in ethane from around the world.

And especially from America. The company said it intends to target imports of low-cost ethane from U.S. shale plays.

This is the second time the company has looked to the U.S. for ethane supply. In September the firm signed a long-term supply agreement with major Marcellus shale gas producer Range Resources, for imports to its facilities in Norway.

At the moment, such shipments are hampered by one problem: a complete lack of ethane export facilities in America.

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But that's changing. Export projects like the Mariner East pipeline from the Marcellus shale are scheduled to come on line in the next couple of years. Allowing ethane to be shipped from the U.S. east coast.

Such developments will be greats news for U.S. producers. Domestic ethane prices have collapsed lately. So accessing higher prices from international consumers like Ineos would be a welcome shot in the arm.

The resulting boost in profitability from liquids exports would help support natural gas drilling in plays like the Marcellus. Great for producers--although not necessarily for the natgas price. Which could be weighed down by more supply if drilling continues apace at higher liquids pricing.

Here's to global markets,

By. Dave Forest

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