Brussels - The shale gas revolution is a significant factor behind a recent spate of investments by overseas tire makers in the US, according to Patrick Ellis, associate consultant at Smithers Rapra
Many US-based industries are becoming increasingly advantaged through the availability of shale gas ethane at a fraction of the cost of conventional petroleum-based feedstock. Among other products, this ethane can be converted into synthetic rubber monomers including butadiene and isoprene.
Speaking on day one of ERJ’s Future Tire Conference, held 28-29 Oct in Brussels, Ellis said this is in turn reducing the cost of materials, such as polybutadiene, styrene-butadiene and polyisoprene rubber.
“In terms of the tire industry, we are talking between $900 and $1,100 a tonne versus $300 a tonne [for feedstock]. So the tire industry in the US is going to be very happy in a few years’ time,” said Ellis.
There have recently been tire plant investments by companies in the US totalling $4 billion, continued Ellis. And, he noted, “they are not Americans: it’s Michelin, Conti, Hankook and Bridgestone, who are investing an enormous amount of money.
“I don’t think it is just because they want to be at the door step of the [US vehicle] producers. I believe it goes further than that.”