Methanex Move Bodes Well For Regional Chemicals

Another sign that the North American chemical industry is getting its groove back is news from Methanex that it is restarting a methanol facility in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that has been idle since 2001. The company says low natural gas prices in North America have made the site competitive again. The company plans to restart the unit next year at a cost of $40 million. Now, I would normally consider methanol and fertilizers a little far afield of what I would call "the chemical industry". However, methanol and fertilizer makers led the charge away from North America a decade ago, and opted instead to build capacity in natural gas rich areas like Trinidad. North American ethylene makers followed with closures and a rush to the Middle East. The reversal is an indication that natural gas from shale has reversed a downward trend for the North American petrochemical industry. Then again, there are the ominous signs that the NIMBY people will scuttle the whole program.

Author: Alex Tullo

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