What is ethane?
Ethane, like propane and butane, it is a natural gas liquid (NGL) found in certain natural gas deposits, including the Marcellus and Utica Shales. NGLs are separated from natural gas and used for a variety of industrial, residential and commercial uses. Ethane is primarily used to create ethylene and would be the primary raw material for this facility.
How would the process work?
The proposed facility would first “crack,” or break apart, ethane’s large molecules and re-arrange the carbon and hydrogen atoms to create ethylene. This is accomplished by heating the ethane to very high temperatures, greater than 1500°F (800°C), in one of the cracker’s seven furnaces. Natural gas and “tail gas” (a hydrogen and natural gas combination from the furnace that is recycled) fuel the process.
The ethylene would be further processed to create different types of polyethylene. Polyethylene pellets then would be shipped to manufacturers to make many of the plastic products we use every day.
What would it make?
Different grades of polyethylene make different types of products:
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) are the raw materials for items like food packaging, film, trash bags, diapers, toys and housewares; and High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to create “stiffer” products such as crates, drums, bottles, food containers and other types of housewares.