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Investors continue to eye the Gulf Coast for petrochemical production

April 30, 2014

Petrochemical and process services are receiving strong capital investment, especially in the center of the U.S.' petrochemical industry: the Gulf Coast. According to the Houston Chronicle, foreign investors have had their eye on this region of the U.S. for some time. With low natural gas prices and a broad industry network in the area, the Gulf Coast offers investors many benefits. Although each company's business goal for investing in the Gulf Coast's petrochemical industry is different, Chron reported most understand the deep value of placing their money and confidence in the stability of the area's industry. 

Foreign companies know the value of the Gulf Coast petrochemical industry
Michelle Michot Foss, chief energy economist for the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas, told Chron the Gulf Coast has cheaper supply chains and infrastructure compared to markets abroad, presenting a rich investment opportunity to petrochemical and process services producers. 

"They are coming in for the total package, the ability to play in the market, to build commercial strategies, to build arbitrage strategies that they think will be more competitive," Foss said. 

According to Chron, there are many big players that are boosting their investment in the Gulf Coast. German-based producer Linde Group is injecting $200 million into new equipment for its plant near Houston. Sasol, a company based in South Africa, is already set to build a $14 billion gas-to-liquids facility in Louisiana. Christopher Guith, vice president of policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Chron Sasol's decision to invest in the Gulf Coast is particularly significant. Sasol is a well-established company with a strong history of using technology, Guith said, and its high investment in the petrochemical environment of the U.S. indicates its confidence in the market as a whole.

In addition, PennEnergy reported Chevron Phillips Chemical Company recently started new construction at one of the company's petrochemical projects in Texas. Dow Chemical Company recently chartered a contract with CB&I for part of an expansion project along the Gulf Coast, according to Oil & Gas Journal. 

However, for investors to truly see a return on their investment, they need to ensure every new piece of equipment is placed correctly and is managed efficiently. 3D laser scanning technology allows petrochemical and process services facilities to generate accurate data on the as-is state of their plants, giving them the insight they need to improve their decision-making and ensure all parts of the facility are working well. The data collected through a laser scanner can be used to create 3D models of piping and instrumental diagrams (P&IDs). These tools can help with better load path analysis and the alignment of machinery. Without complete knowledge of the facility's strengths and weaknesses, along with potential expansion opportunities, a company will be nearly blind to the needs of the plant and its long-term potential.

"You don't make a $20 billion investment unless you have great certainty in the future of the country – the access, the availability of the gas and the regulatory environment," Guith told Chron. 3D laser scanning is an integral part of this investment.