Cost Curve Service - Ethylene

The Chemical Cost Curve Service – Ethylene provides detailed production cost coverage for the more than 280 ethylene production units operating around the world today, as well as the more than 60 new units expected to start up over the next five years.

Cost curves provide insight into which production technologies and feedstocks provide cost advantages, the degree of the advantage and how this is expected to change over time. Find out which are the lowest-cost regions, countries and plants, both today and in the future. Identify the marginal producing location and how this affects pricing. Understand how the shape of the cost curve affects overall and regional profitability for this key building block of the chemical industry.

Capital investments in ethylene production units in recent years have focused on Middle Eastern countries due to advantaged feedstock costs, or areas such as China with rapid demand growth. The current and planned development of numerous shale gas fields in the United States is forecast to supply extremely cost competitive feedstocks compared to most other regions, so global producers are again considering North America as an investment option because of the favorable feedstock position and the stable investment environment.

Furthermore, the development of alternative ethylene technologies has been gaining momentum over the past several years. Some companies are focusing on coal as an alternative feedstock to petroleum (crude oil or natural gas) feedstocks due to the availability of cheap coal; while other use bio or renewable feedstocks (sugarcane, corn, etc.) to produce green end-use intermediates. While traditional feedstocks will still dominate the global production of ethylene, coal-based olefins are fast becoming a significant share of ethylene production in China. Bio-based ethylene derived from ethanol still comprises only a marginal share of ethylene production, but this segment is commanding price premiums for use in products (primarily bottles and packaging) to support retail brand owners’ market reputations.

The Cost Curve Service – Ethylene analyzes each of the world’s production facilities, building up cost based on the technology and feedstock slate, estimated feedstock cost and by-product credit value, utility consumption and other variable and plant fixed costs. Plant size, degree of integration and operating rates are all taken into account.

The cost curve covers all of the key processes for producing ethylene, including

  • Steam cracking
  • Purity ethane
  • Natural gas liquids (NGL)
  • Naphtha, gas oil and flexible feed crackers

Coal to olefins

Ethanol dehydration

Any person, company or government interested in producing or purchasing ethylene, or designing or constructing ethylene plants, should be aware of the competitive positions within the global ethylene industry. Chemical, utilizing its extensive databases, models and expertise, has prepared the Cost Curve Service to address this need.


The deliverable is an interactive Excel spreadsheet that will allow the user to toggle and create key graphs and tables

  • Global curves for current year, future year, five years out and one historical year for reference
  • Charts showing costs by year for world and ten geographic regions, broken down by net feedstock cost, variable costs and fixed costs.
  • Regional averages and all individual plants for any given region plotted on the curve
  • Breakdown of capacity by technology or feedslate for world and 10 geographic regions
  • Cost summary tables showing number of production units, total capacity, average capacity, with total cash cost broken down into feedstock cost, co-product credit, net feedstock cost, variable cost, fixed costs, for world and each of ten geographic regions

The service will include an executive overview, summarizing the key findings from the analysis

Regional cost structure is included along with production cost economics for major technologies

Capacity data by unit is included for all years covered in the analysis

The Cost Curve Service will be updated twice a year on same schedule as the Chemical World Analysis – Ethylene, typically in the late Fall and very early Spring

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