This has boosted profitability and enabled the industry to regain its position as America’s largest exporter. It has also stimulated new investment. For the first time in more than a decade, major capacity additions have been announced that convert ethane to ethylene, the largest petrochemical building block.

According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, these represent a capacity increase of 33 percent by 2017, which is the equivalent of six to eight new world-scale steam crackers. On top of that are smaller projects already completed, equivalent to at least one steam cracker.

ExxonMobil Chemical is part of this picture. We are progressing plans for a multi-billion dollar world-scale steam cracker and premium polyethylene expansion at our Baytown, Texas, site, already the country’s largest integrated refining-chemical complex.

While all announced projects may not materialize, the U.S. industry is clearly poised to expand its position as a leading petrochemical producer. And with 85 percent of demand growth projected to occur in emerging markets, this is great news for U.S. chemical exports.

Keys to a Sustainable Future

The brightened outlook for American chemistry is not an excuse for complacency. The industry will continue to be a highly competitive and cyclical global business.

The industry remains subject to both economic and political cycles, as well as cycles of new capacity that create boom and bust industry conditions. Moreover, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, feedstock advantages change over time. And new technologies like shale gas extraction migrate quickly around the world.

This brings me to the subject of my talk: strategies for a sustainable future. What strategy can help companies remain successful over these peaks and valleys in the chemical industry landscape? In a word – sustainability. Sustainability may sound like a buzzword, but it is a driving force in the chemical industry.

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