2020 was a difficult year for most of us, but it was a historically great year to have an ethane cracker. It was a perfect storm for profitability. US inventories were drawn down before Covid-19 in anticipation of capacity additions. Covid-19 dramatically increased demand in PPE, plastic bags, retail barriers, packaging – especially in food, and construction materials. New cracker capacity additions were hampered by Covid-19 workforce restrictions. Gulf Coast hurricanes, headlined by hurricane Laura idled or restricted capacity for months. Ethane prices cooperated, as they remained low. When the final results are counted 2020 may be the best year on record for US ethane crackers.
2018 and 2019 were very good and 2021 looks very promising. Historically a multiyear positive cycle causes industry to increase capacity. That will be good news for ethane demand and construction specialists.