Crude oversupply to continue into 2017; Port of Houston weighs up driverless, electric transport

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The Port of Houston is considering use of driverless transport (Image credit: Freight Shuttle International)

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Crude oversupply to continue into 2017

Production of crude oil will likely outstrip demand for a fourth consecutive year in 2017, according to separate reports by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The IEA predicted that demand will rise to an average 97.4 million barrels per day in 2017 from 96.2 mb/d in 2016 and 94.8 mb/d in 2015.

World oil supplies fell to 96.9 mb/d in August from 97.2 mb/d one year earlier, but near-record OPEC supply “just about offset steep non-OPEC declines”, the IEA said. Saudi Arabia and Iran have each raised oil output by more than 1 mb/d since late 2014 when OPEC shifted strategy to defend market share rather than price, while Kuwait and the UAE both hit their highest output ever in August and Iraq also lifted supplies, it noted.

Supply will continue to outpace demand at least through the first half of next year, the IEA predicted. It noted that OECD total stockpiles rose 32.5 mb in July to a new record of 3.11 billion barrels, and predicted that global inventories will continue to grow.

OPEC said in its report that world oil demand will reach 94.3 mb/d in 2016 and 95.4 mb/d in 2017. Total non-OPEC supply will reach 62.6 mb/d in 2016 and 62.9 mb/d in 2017, it said. OPEC supply hit 33.24 mb/d in August 2016, a 1.8 mb/d increase from the corresponding month last year. Even in the unlikely scenario that OPEC supply growth stagnates, total global supply would still far exceed demand in 2016 and 2017.

The world is still awash in oil, even as demand rises (Source: EIA)

Port of Houston considering driverless, electric transport

The Port of Houston Authority (POHA) is considering the use of fully automated, electric-powered transporters that would move containers to and from port terminals along elevated guideways.

POHA and Freight Shuttle International (FSI), designer of the Freight Shuttle System, have signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate options for deploying the system in the Port of Houston area.

FSI Chairman Steve Roop said his firm had been developing the concept for more than a decade, “but now it is a real, tangible system which people can see, and that makes a difference in attracting partners to support future development, refinement and deployment.”

The Freight Shuttle System was conceived and designed at Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The system transports containers of up to 53 ft by means of electric linear induction motors on a dedicated, elevated guideway designed to be constructed within existing highway right-of-way.

According to FSI, the system’s 24/7 operations will enable shippers to reduce stock levels in the warehouse. Other benefits being touted include avoidance of delays caused by traffic and regulations, and protection against damage, vandalism and theft. The electric-powered system will also serve to lower emissions, it says.

LyondellBasell selects La Porte, Texas for high-density polyethylene plant

LyondellBasell has selected its La Porte, Texas manufacturing complex as the site for a new high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plant.

This will be the first commercial plant to employ LyondellBasell’s new proprietary Hyperzone PE technology and will have an annual capacity of 1.1 billion pounds (500,000 metric tons), according to the plastics, chemical and refining company. The project is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction and as many as 75 full time positions. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2017 with start-up planned for 2019.

“This project represents the next generation of technology,” said Chairman and CEO Bob Patel. “This location is ideal for this facility because of the feedstock advantage we enjoy, the ability to ship product around the world and, most importantly, the outstanding workforce that the Gulf Coast has to offer."

Located on the south shore of the Houston shipping channel, the 540-acre La Porte complex produces ethylene, propylene, linear low-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene.

According to LyondellBasell, HDPE is one of the most versatile plastics because it is lightweight yet very strong, impact resistant, weather resistant, and can be molded into almost any shape and is widely recyclable.

HDPE resins produced using Hyperzone PE technology will exhibit improved stress-crack resistance and an improved balance between stiffness and impact strength, the company said. In certain applications, it may also allow customers to use less polyethylene resin per unit produced, resulting in improved resource efficiency and savings for customers.