Back in 2005, the U.S. petrochemical industry was saddled with the world’s highest production costs. There were dire predict
ions about the industry’s future, including talk about plastic imports coming to
the U.S. in bulk ships. Then along came the fracking revolution ‘
in North America. It unlocked plentiful supplies of natural gas, whose byproducts are the primary feedstocks for plastics production.
It also reduced producers’ energy costs. “The shale gas play has propelled the United States from one of the highest cost ethylene/polyethylene producers to one of the most cost-competitive producers anywhere in the world;’ John Barrett, general manager global supply chain for Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., said at the Rail Trends 2016 conference.
Now the North American petrochemical industry is in the midst of a building boom. In anticipation of exporting plastics to Asia, South America, and Europe, 21 new or expanded plastics plants are opening, under construction, or are planned. Polyethylene production is expected to jump 45 percent by 2019, Barrett says, with nearly all of it for export. That’s the equivalent
of 115,000 railcar shipments annually for North American railroads, says Richard Miller, BNSF Railway’s assistant vice president for chemicals and plastics. “It’s a very positive thing from a rail perspective;’ Miller says.
The bulk of the increased production – or roughly 75,000 railcar shipments annually is centered in the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, an area served by B~SF Railway, Union Pacific, Canadian National, and Kansas City Southern. The Chevron Phillips USGC Petrochemicals Project, in Old Ocean and Cedar Bayou, Texas, will begin operations this summer. The $6 billion ethylene and polyethylene project, served by BNSF and UP, includes a 1,500-car storage yard with 40 miles of track. Chevron Phillips also purchased 2,750 hopper cars to handle the project’s output, Miller says.
Congestion and lack of empty containers
at Gulf Coast ports prompted Chevron Phillips to come up with more diverse and complex export logistics, Barrett says. Intermodal will play a key role in getting its plastics to ports on the U.S. West and East coasts, as well as the Mexican West Coast Port of Lazaro Cardenas. Other plastics producers have followed suit. · BNSF and UP both are expected to haul loaded hopper cars from the Gulf Coast to plastics packaging facilities in the DallasFort
Worth area. Once packaged, the plastics will be loaded onto international containers that will ride intermodal trains. BNSF will carry plastic loads to West Coast ports as well as to Chicago for inter- . change for East Coast ports. UP’s Dallas to Dock program envisions moving containers to West Coast ports, as well as back to Houston for export. A packaging plant adjacent to UP’s Dallas intermodal terminal is scheduled to open by the end
of the summer. BNSF began moving the first export test loads in fall2016 and production has been ramping up at a packing facility near its intermodal terminal in Alliance, Texas, Miller says. BNSF anticipates additional packaging facilities to be built in the area the year. The mopper cars will move between the Gulf Coast and Alliance in regular manifest service.
Miller credits Barrett with having the foresight to suggest using Dallas Fort Worth as a hub for export plastics packaging. The Dallas-Fort Worth area sees heavy inbound container traffic, Miller says,
but generates few outbound loads. There are nine times more containers available for plastics loads in Dallas-Fort Worth than in
Houston, UP notes. Plastics have long been hauled in covered
hoppers – and that won’t change anytime soon. But, Barrett says, “intermodal will continue to grow in importance in both domestic
and export movements as an alternative to long-haul truck shipments and congested highway systems:’ – Bill Stephens
Volunteerism: You often receive more than you give
April 21, 2016 By Harvey Mackay
Years ago, my father sat me down and gave me what was some of the best advice I have ever received. It had nothing to do with making money but everything to do with getting ahead in the world. It was self-help advice that really focused on helping others.
He told me I would never have any trouble finding opportunities. And he told me that 20-25 percent of my time should be devoted to this pursuit.
“Volunteer,” he said. Not exactly music to the ears of a broke, fresh out of college, aspiring millionaire. But as I have come to appreciate, he was dead-on right – AGAIN.
Volunteering has made my life so much better, and I suspect that anyone who has become passionate about a cause will tell you the same thing.