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 Shale Formations. 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?
Once built, the proposed facility will 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 will be further processed to create different types of polyethylene. Polyethylene pellets then will be shipped to manufacturers via railcar and truck to make many of the plastic products we use every day.
What types of products will the plant make?
The plant will produce two different types of polyethylene, used to make products ranging from common every-day household goods to environmental liners for retention ponds that help to protect and preserve the environment. The types of polyethylene will include:
- Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) which is the primary raw material for items like flexible food packaging and pouches, collation shrink wrap, stretch film, protective packaging, flexible tubing, sports equipment (canoes), industrial equipment (tornado shelters), wire and cable insulation, agricultural films; and
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) that is used to create “stiffer” products such as toys, crates, drums, shampoo bottles, milk jugs, detergent/bleach bottles, pails (buckets), environmental liners, paint containers, garden furniture and other types of housewares.