Last updateThu, 25 Aug 2016 4pm


Chemical Activity Barometer Suggests Accelerated Business Activity

The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) expanded 0.4% in August following an upward revision for July. This marks the barometer’s sixth consecutive monthly gain. Accounting for adjustments, the CAB is up 3.2% over this time last year, the strongest year over year growth since January 2015. All data is measured on a three-month moving average. On an unadjusted basis the CAB climbed 0.3% in August, following a 0.6% jump in July.

"The CAB is signaling higher, and possibly accelerating, U.S. business activity into 2017. The services sectors have begun to improve and likely accelerated during recent months, and manufacturing appears to be gathering momentum," said American Chemistry Council chief economist Kevin Swift. 

Innovation Could Lead to Significant Cuts in Chemical Manufacturing Energy Use

Scientists from ExxonMobil and Georgia Tech have developed a new technology that could significantly reduce the amount of energy and emissions associated with manufacturing plastics. If brought to industrial scale, this breakthrough could reduce industry’s global annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to 45 million tons, which is equivalent to the annual energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of about five million U.S. homes. It could also reduce global energy costs used to make plastics by up to $2 billion a year.

Using a molecular-level filter, the new process employs a form of reverse osmosis to separate para-xylene, a chemical building block for polyester and plastics, from complex hydrocarbon mixtures. The current commercial-scale process used around the world relies on energy and heat to separate those molecules. 

Oil Rigs Added for Eighth Week in a Row

For the week ending Aug. 19, U.S. drillers “added oil rigs for an eighth consecutive week, the longest recovery streak in the rig count in over two years, as crude prices rebounded toward the key $50-a-barrel mark that makes the return to the well pad viable,” Reuters reports.

“Energy companies kept adding rigs despite prices dipping below $40 earlier this month but analysts have revised down rig count growth forecasts.” 

U.S. Natural Gas Production Up in July, Ending Five-Month Decline

U.S. natural gas production levels in the lower 48 states increased nearly 1% in July 2016, and averaged 73.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), ending a five-month production decline, according to analysis from IHS Markit.

The production increase, IHS Markit said, represents a 0.6 Bcf/d (0.8%) increase from production levels seen in June 2016, and brings a spark of unanticipated good news for producers of the commodity that has seen historically low price marks during the summer.

While July 2016 production levels were up versus the prior month, average production levels were down slightly versus July 2015 levels, reflecting the uneasy production environment in the industry following a multi-year surge in production levels. 

North Carolina Approves $127 Million in Water/Wastewater Projects

North Carolina awarded $127 million in loans and grants that will help towns pay for 70 drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Since January 2014, the state has provided more than $695 million for similar projects. Additionally, more than $300 million will be awarded through the Connect NC bond.

The next round of funding in the fall of 2016 will include the first use of Connect NC bonds for water and sewer infrastructure projects. The bonds will provide more than $300 million for drinking and wastewater projects across the state. 


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