Liquefied Petroleum Gas, long a niche product used by the poor to cook and the rich to barbecue, has become a rare bright spot amid a broad commodities rout, riding on the wave of strong economic growth in India and parts of Southeast Asia.
LPG is best known to consumers as propane or butane used in heating appliances and vehicles. But it is also used in the petrochemicals industry and the electricity sector, acting as a replacement for diesel in generators and power stations.
While tumbling prices for oil, gas, coal and industrial metals have seen energy companies and miners slash capital expenditure, investment is flowing into the LPG sector to feed burgeoning demand from the world's poorer nations.
The biggest growth market is India, with its 1.3 billion people and 8 percent economic growth expected this year, where millions of households are switching from kerosene or wood burners to LPG.
"It cuts pollution and also replaces use of wood as well as animal dung used for cooking in rural India. In the last 5-6 years, the government has been consistently reducing the allocation of subsidized kerosene... Delhi is today kerosene-free."
Energy consultancy IHS expects global LPG demand to rise from around 275 million tonnes this year to some 310 million tonnes by 2019, with the biggest growth seen in Asia. That compares with under 250 million tonnes in 2010.
The World Bank says LPG helps reduce poverty, giving millions of households access to cooking heat and electricity for the first time.
Just as important as the demand growth has been a change in LPG supply.
Previously mostly produced in the Middle East, its rise over the last few years has come as a side-effect of the U.S. shale oil and gas exploration boom, of which LPG is a by-product.
With LPG production from shale soaring since 2006, the United States has this year become the world's biggest exporter.
Its soaring production has also made LPG much cheaper, a key ingredient for its success in developing countries, with U.S. propane prices PRO-USG down 70 percent since 2014.
"The sea-change of U.S. LPG exports has been fantastic for us," said Theodore Young, chief financial officer of New York-based Dorian LPG, one of the world's biggest shippers of the fuel, which has ordered 19 new vessels to meet demand.
"It's been massive growth of perhaps 4 million tonnes not a decade ago to some 20 million tonnes this year."
LPG is also seeing industrial-scale growth. Malaysia is developing the huge Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Johor, close to Singapore's oil hub.
RAPID will have the capacity to store more than 2 million cubic metres of crude oil, refined products, petrochemicals and LPG and plans to start operations in 2019.
One problem the LPG industry could face is a scale-back in subsidies it heavily relies on in many countries.http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/08/commodities-lpg-growth-idUSL5N12023Y20151008