U.S. exports of ethane have increased from nearly nothing in 2013 to an average of 260,000 barrels per day (b/d) through the first 10 months of 2018, accounting for about one-sixth of U.S. hydrocarbon gas liquids exports. Ethane is a key feedstock for petrochemical manufacturing. The U.S. became the world’s top exporter of ethane in 2015, surpassing Norway, the only other country to ship ethane internationally. In 2014 and 2015, all U.S. ethane shipments went to Canada, but in 2018 the U.S. sent ethane to 10 countries.
The U.S. petrochemical industry, responding to greater feedstock availability and consequent lower prices of ethane on the domestic market, added capacity at existing plants and built new petrochemical steam crackers, resulting in an estimated $200 billion dollars of new investment across the country.