ethylene

Rising US interest rates, US$ and oil prices set to pressure financial markets

Everyone who has ever played the Beer Distribution Game on a training course knows what is happening in supply chains today. A small increase in underlying demand is rapidly leading to a massive increase in ‘apparent demand’. As the New York Times reports, “the pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey.”  And

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Day of reckoning approaches for US polyethylene expansions, and the European industry

Planning for future demand in petrochemicals and polymers used to be relatively easy during the BabyBoomer SuperCycle. The team would consult the latest IMF forecast for global and regional growth, and then debate the right ratio to use to calculate product demand. For polyethylene (PE), the ratio was generally just above GDP at around 1.1x,

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Stormy weather ahead for chemicals

Four serious challenges are on the horizon for the global petrochemical industry as I describe in my latest analysis for ICIS Chemical Business and in a podcast interview with Will Beacham of ICIS. The first is the growing risk of recession, with key markets such as autos, electronics and housing all showing signs of major

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Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens

Sadly, my July forecast that US-China tariffs could lead to a global polyethylene price war seems to be coming true. As I have argued since March 2014 (US boom is a dangerous game), it was always going to be difficult for US producers to sell their vastly increased output.  The expansions were of course delayed […]

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US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives

US ethylene spot prices are tumbling as the major new shale gas expansions come on line, as the chart based on ICIS pricing data confirms: They began the year at $617/t, but have since more than halved to $270/t on Friday They are only around 10% higher than their all-time low of $240/t in September […]

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Sinopec’s results confirm China’s focus on employment and self-sufficiency, not profit

China’s strategies for oil, refining and petrochemical production are very different from those in the West, as analysis of Sinopec’s Annual and 20-F Reports confirms.  As the above chart shows, it doesn’t aim to maximise profit: □  Since 1998, it has spent $45bn on capex in the refining sector, and $38bn in the chemicals sector □ […]

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European petrochemical output still below 2004 – 2007 levels

The financial crisis began a decade ago, yet production of the key “building block products” for the European petrochemical industry has still not recovered to its pre-Crisis peak, as the chart shows (based on new APPE data):   Combined production of ethylene, propylene and butadiene (olefins) peaked at 39.7 million tonnes in 2007   A […]

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China’s PVC exports confirm its move to self-sufficiency

Many commentators were shocked by China’s weak trade data on Monday – with imports falling 12.5% versus July 2015, and January – July imports down 10.5%.  But they were no surprise to anyone focused on developments in the chemical industry, which has once again confirmed its status as the most reliable leading indicator for the […]

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BASF warns on outlook; Dow warns on China, ethylene cycle

BASF and Dow Chemical both warned on the outlook when presenting their H1 results last week: BASF CEO Kurt Bock warned, “We have for second quarter in the row in chemicals no growth worth mentioning . . . that is not a gratifying development.  We have the impression that there is little growth dynamic at the moment and our customers remain extremely cautious […]

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Shell CEO says Europe needs to leverage chemicals clusters

There are 2 ways to improve operating rates in an industry.  One is to increase volumes, the other is to reduce capacity.   The latest APPE data covering H1 2014 for European olefin capacity highlights how the European petrochemical industry has successfully used both mechanisms over the past year to improve its position: Ethylene volume increased to 9.8MT, versus […]

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US ethylene outages boost European and Asian PE producers

Polymer traders must be already counting their end-of-year bonuses, as the value of the US$ rises whilst crude oil prices weaken.  The biggest bonuses will likely go to polyethylene (PE) traders competing with US producers. The reason is that US ethylene spot prices are currently at record levels.  An astonishing 10% of US ethylene capacity has been out […]

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