Houston always was an oil tanker capital and this has of course been boosted by shale developments.
But in recent years it has been transforming into a global hub for chemical production. A powerful endorsement of this status was Stolt Tankers decision to relocate its United States headquarters from Newark to Houston back in 2015.
A more recent analysis by industry analysts Charles Lawrie and Associates vividly underscores the pace of development.
A year-on-year comparison of export volumes shows an increase of nearly 1.8 million (16 per cent) with the principle markets being Mexico, Korea, China and Brazil.
The major increases in MTBE/ETBE exports have been to Japan and Mexico along with smaller increases to Chile, Venezuela, Taiwan and Malaysia. Among the other significant commodity chemicals export gains, more styrene shipments headed to South Korea and reached 317,000 tonnes, surpassing the 2015 annual total of 136,000 tonnes for this specific trade. Overall, US commodity chemicals exports have picked up the most into China, South Korea and Japan by 560,000 tonnes, 470,000 tonnes and 229,000 tonnes respectively.
It will be interesting to report first-hand on developments while over in Houston and to see whether Houston is truly – as some suggest – emerging as a chemical hub to rival that of the Arabian Gulf.