The Impact of the Development of Shale Gas in the United States on Europa’s Petrochemical Industries

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Publication Date November 2013
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The massive rise of unconventional hydrocarbons, and especially shale gas, in the United States is often looked at only from the energy perspective. But gas is not just used as a fuel to produce energy. Instead, it is also a fundamental raw material in petrochemical industries. What is usually called the revolution in American shale gas thus has major consequences not only in the field of energy, but also industry.

This study aims to measure the industrial impact of shale gas. It focuses specifically on petrochemicals, and in particular on ethylene, for two main reasons. First, ethylene production is energy intensive. Energy costs (as a fuel and raw material) account for about 70% of total production costs. As a result, this is a key sector for observing the impact of the spread in the price of energy between the United States and Europe. Next, the petrochemical sector is an indicator of the good health of industrial production and its future competitiveness. Products fabricated in the petrochemical sector are used in making plastics (and other derivative products), which are subsequently used in nearly all branches of manufacturing industry. The sector is therefore a reliable lead indicator of the good or poor health of a region’s economy.

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