Now comes a report from Plastemart that North Dakota will soon have their own world class polyethylene production facility - a $4 billion dollar investment. $1.5 million metric tonnes a year of HDPE - from North Dakota. That is pretty impressive.
In my mind, it was just a matter of time before this happened, although I've not heard anything previous about it unlike the plant being built in West Virginia to take advantage of the Marcellus shale production. At the same time, I bet that this plant will be far more expensive than the original estimate for many of the reasons I already discussed. The labor to build the plant will need to be imported - there aren't too many pipefitters out there and they are already kept busy with the existing fracking operations. And the housing shortage will only increase. While transporting polyethylene by train is much less risky than transporting petroleum liquids, it is not as efficient. The bulk density of polyethylene is about 0.5 g/cm3, a good fraction less than any hydrocarbon liquids. So that means more strain on the train network.
Looking at the very-long-term picture, at some point fracking production will dry up, and so the question be what happens to the facility. Will it be abandoned or will it continue to operate, albeit with a biobased source of ethylene, such as that produced by dehydration of ethanol? North Dakota isn't a very large corn producer, but over the coming decades, alternative biofeedstocks for ethanol will be developed, including some that could be raised in the dry regions of North Dakota. Either way, I'm prety sure that I will not see that future. It's too many decades down the road. (Yes, fracking will go on that long.)
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