Shale gas has been in the headlines for the last few years, and for good reason. It is likely to lead to a construction and export boom for North America reminiscent of the petrochemicals boom seen in the Middle East over the period from 2005 to 2010. The estimated value of these new export opportunities approaches half-trillion dollars.

Shale gas – natural gas recovered from shale formations via hydraulic fracturing – is changing the energy and petrochemical outlook in North America in dramatic ways. Most important, the successful deployment of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies has opened up enormous previously inaccessible hydrocarbon resources, with shale gas recoverable reserves now estimated to be equivalent to about 70-100 years of consumption at current levels. This situation has emerged very quickly, essentially since about 2006, and its impact on the energy and petrochemical industries has not yet been fully assessed. In addition, reserve estimates are still being revised upward as more information becomes available and as recovery technologies improve, so a 100-year reserve may eventually turn out to be a conservative estimate.

The availability of such a large, low cost, low carbon energy resource will obviously be of great economic benefit to the region for decades to come. It is also a major environmental benefit in terms of CO2 emissions, bridging the transition between a high-carbon economy to one that relies on renewable energy sources for base-load generation. Low cost and cleaner domestic energy is not the only benefit, however, since the shale gas brings with it new export opportunities for the region:

· Opportunities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to world markets

· Opportunities to use natural gas liquids (NGLs) to generate additional higher value exports:

o Conversion of ethane in NGLs to ethylene and ethylene derivatives for export

o Conversion of propane in NGLs to propylene and propylene derivatives for export

o Exports of LPG/propane-butane to regional markets

· Possible opportunities to export GTL-based diesel fuels to regional markets

These opportunities and progress toward their realization are briefly discussed in this paper.

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