Growing petrochemical market drives propane exports to Asia

July 18, 2023 By    

A rapid increase in U.S. propane exports to Asia in recent years contributed to the U.S. reaching a record export level of 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in March 2023, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports. EIA says the U.S. propane export level was the highest it ever recorded since it began collecting the data in 1973. Propane exports eclipsed that mark in April.

U.S. propane exports to Asia are being driven in part by the region’s increasing demand for propylene, a chemical that can be produced from propane. Propylene is used to manufacture polypropylene, a versatile plastic.

Japan is the largest importer of U.S. propane, followed by China and South Korea. In 2022, about 53 percent of all U.S. propane exports went to markets in Asia, and the three major east Asian economies (Japan, China and South Korea) accounted for nearly 84 percent of Asia’s propane market, according to EIA. U.S. propane exports to China increased to 211,000 bpd in March 2023 from 92,000 bpd in March 2022 and averaged 176,000 bpd during the first three months of 2023. China’s demand is set to increase further: Seven new propane dehydrogenation (PDH) units started up in 2022; six more units are expected to start up in 2023.

U.S. propane exports to Europe set record highs of 236,000 bpd in the summer of 2022 because of uncertainty about propane supply resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EIA reports. U.S. propane exports to Europe averaged 247,000 bpd in the first three months of 2023.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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