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Published: May 2012
Butanes are consumed primarily for fuel purposes in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or in substitute natural gas (SNG). LPG, usually a mixture of butane and propane, is used as a fuel because it is gaseous at room temperature, easily liquefied, transportable and cleaner burning than most other hydrocarbons. Production of SNG has used butane as a feedstock because butane is easier to transport. However, SNG production from butane is negligible.The global butanes business is operated by oil and natural gas companies from the public and private sectors.
The Middle East is the major producer/supplier of butanes in the world, accounting for nearly 25% of world production. The other major producers include the United States (14%), Europe (9%) and China (9%). Each remaining producing region/country accounted for less than 8% of the total in 2011.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of butanes:
In 2011, about two-thirds of the consumption of butanes worldwide was for fuel uses (LPG) in residential/commercial, industrial, and engine fuel markets. Butanes for the refinery gasoline pool (including alkylation) represented 15% of the world total, and butanes consumption for petrochemicals was 17%.
Supply/demand economics for the various regional butanes markets will continue to be influenced by three current general trends: international LPG (C3/C4) industry developments; further environmental policy enactments, especially regarding gasoline; and the continuing development of shale gas/oil resources in North America.
Consumption of butanes is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of about 2.5% in the next five years. This growth will be attributable to increased commercial/residential use throughout the world, as well as to butanes feed for petrochemicals, and butane for other fuel uses.