Frac Spread: Ethane Markets Remain Fragile

Heavy NGLs outperformed expectations, but ethane prices remain challenged due to disruptions along the Gulf Coast.

frac spread

Ethane prices experienced a noticeable dip at both the Mont Belvieu, Texas, and Conway, Kan., hubs this past week following supply disruptions out of the Gulf Coast due to Tropical Storm Imelda. According to reports, heavy rainfall from the storm saw ethane cracking fall by about 150,000 to 200,000 barrels per day (bbl/d).

As a result of these disruptions, ethane prices were down 14% week-over-week at Mont Belvieu and 23% week-over-week at Conway. The Texas price of 17 cents per gallon (/gal) and the Kansas price of 8 cents/gal were the lowest at each hub in about a month.

According to En*Vantage, ethane prices may experience more price swings in the months ahead because of delays in getting new crackers online. "The impact of [Tropical Storm] Imelda was another example of how disruptions in ethylene plant operations can cause a downturn in ethane prices and it highlighted the fact that current ethane balances are fragile," the firm said in its Sept. 25 Weekly Energy Report.

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Frank Nieto

Frank Nieto has covered the energy industry for more than a decade. He previously served as senior editor for Hart Energy's Midstream Business.