Polyethylene

Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track

Plastics has long been the ‘odd one out’ in terms of recycling. Steel, aluminium, glass, cardboard, rubber and paper routinely have up to a 70% rate of recycling. But plastics has been stuck at around 10% for a long time. President Biden’s Earth Day Summit is likely to change this picture, and quickly. The reason

The post Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track Read More

Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains

The Great Freeze in Texas has confirmed once again the problems with today’s global supply chains.  As the New York Times has highlighted: “The pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey”. The problems began last year with the disruption to the global shipping container system. Millions of containers were used to ship

The post Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains Read More

EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system

“The challenges posed by plastics are to a large extent due to the fact that our production and consumption systems are not sustainable. “The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have amplified public attention for the plastic waste crisis we face. “It is clear that the best way is to shift to a fundamentally sustainable and

The post EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system Read More

China’s plastic ban and recycling launch marks end of ‘business as usual’ for plastics industry

Paradigm shifts start slowly at first, and it is easy to miss them. But then one day, they suddenly become obvious, and it becomes a scramble to catch up. That’s what happened on the waste plastic issue last week, when China decided to take action. As official news agency, Xinhua, reported: “The policy measures proposed

China’s plastic ban and recycling launch marks end of ‘business as usual’ for plastics industry Read More

Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues

The IMF has now confirmed that the world economy has moved into the synchronised slowdown that I forecast here a year ago. Its analysis also confirms the importance of the issues highlighted then, including “rising trade barriers and increasing geopolitical tensions”, a sharp decline in manufacturing, contraction in the auto industry and structural forces such

Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues Read More

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,

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

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

Stormy weather ahead for chemicals Read More

$60bn opportunity opens up for plastics industry as need to eliminate single-use packaging grows

150 businesses representing over 20% of the global plastic packaging market have now agreed to start building a circular economy for plastics with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. As a first step, Coca-Cola has revealed that it produced 3MT of plastic packaging in 2017 – equivalent to 200k bottles/minute, around 20% of the 500bn PET bottles used every

$60bn opportunity opens up for plastics industry as need to eliminate single-use packaging grows Read More

Asian downturn worsens, bringing global recession nearer

The chemical industry is the best leading indicator for the global economy.  And my visit to Singapore last week confirmed that the downturn underway in the Asian market creates major risks for developed and emerging economies alike. The problem is focused on China’s likely move into recession, now its stimulus policies are finally being unwound. 

Asian downturn worsens, bringing global recession nearer Read More

Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges

Europe’s petrochemical sector must prepare now for the trade war, US start-ups, Brexit and the circular economy, as I discuss in this interview with Will Beacham of ICIS news  at the European Petrochemical Association Conference. With higher tariff barriers going up between the US and China, the market in Europe is likely to experience an influx of […]

The post Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges Read More

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 […]

The post Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

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

US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war

I was interviewed on Friday about the likely impact of President Trump’s trade wars on the global chemical industry by Will Beacham, deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business. His interview is below. The introduction on Friday of trade tariffs by China and the US is the first step in a trade war that could turn into […]

The post US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war Read More

Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise

Today, we have “lies, fake news and statistics” rather than the old phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics”. But the general principle is still the same.  Cynical players simply focus on the numbers that promote their argument, and ignore or challenge everything else. The easiest way for them to manipulate the statistics is to ignore […]

The post Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise Read More

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 […]

The post US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

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

US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies

It is almost a year since Donald Trump became President.  And whilst he has not followed through on many of his promises, he has indeed introduced the major policy changes that I began to discuss in September 2015, when I first suggested he could win the election and that the Republicans could control Congress: “In the […]

The post US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies Read More

Difficult times ahead for US polyethylene exports as business models change

This wasn’t the chart that companies and investors expected to see when they were busy finalising $bns of investment in new US ethylene and polyethylene (PE) capacity back in 2013-4.  They were working on 3 core assumptions, which they were sure would make these investments vastly profitable: Oil prices would always be above $100/bbl and […]

The post Difficult times ahead for US polyethylene exports as business models change appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Difficult times ahead for US polyethylene exports as business models change Read More

Chemical industry data shows reflation remains hope, not reality

Western central bankers are convinced reflation and economic growth are finally underway as a result of their $14tn stimulus programmes.  But the best leading indicator for the global economy – capacity utilisation (CU%) in the global chemical industry – is saying they are wrong.  The CU% has an 88% correlation with actual GDP growth, far […]

Chemical industry data shows reflation remains hope, not reality Read More

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 □ […]

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

China’s increase in chemicals self-sufficiency will hit US shale gas expansions

Some years ago, when China was well on the way to becoming the world’s largest importer of chemicals, a reporter asked the chairman of Sinochem, China’s largest chemical company if China intended to keep increasing its imports?  ”Not at all” was Su Shulin’s reply, “This is temporary.  It is not our strategy.  We will become […]

China’s increase in chemicals self-sufficiency will hit US shale gas expansions Read More

4.5 million tonnes of new US polyethylene exports on front-line as War of Words hits US-China trade

“There isn’t anybody who knows what is going to happen in the next 12 months. We’ve never been here before. Things are out of control. I have never seen a situation like it.” This comment last month from former UK Finance Minister, Ken Clarke, aptly summarises the uncertainty facing the global economy. As I note in a new analysis, major policy changes are […]

4.5 million tonnes of new US polyethylene exports on front-line as War of Words hits US-China trade Read More

No conspiracy on raw materials pricing – the business model has changed

The Financial Times kindly prints my letter this morning on pricing policies for polyethylene. Sir, Conspiracy theories are always good fun, and Robert Bateman’s views on the polyethylene market are no exception (Letters, December 29). But there is a much more prosaic explanation for the pricing structures he describes. The key issue is that until […]

No conspiracy on raw materials pricing – the business model has changed Read More

Industry needs new strategy to spread benefits of globalisation

The Brexit vote, and Donald Trump’s election, confirm that we are in a New Normal world.  In the interview below with Will Beacham, Deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business, I highlight some ideas about how industry needs to adapt. BARCELONA (ICIS)–The global chemical sector needs to stimulate demand for innovative products and services in mature […]

Industry needs new strategy to spread benefits of globalisation Read More

Wrong assumptions on China growth and oil prices mean danger lies ahead for refiners and polymer producers

It could be a very difficult H2 for anyone involved in the Asian oil and polymer markets.  And given the global importance of these markets, everyone around the world will also feel the impact.  The issue is that most business strategies have been based on 2 increasingly unlikely assumptions:   Companies all assumed that oil […]

Wrong assumptions on China growth and oil prices mean danger lies ahead for refiners and polymer producers Read More

China’s polymer expansions make new US exports hard to place

China used to be the manufacturing capital of the world.  It would buy raw materials, and sell finished products to the West.  But these volumes are now in decline.  The West’s ageing populations already own most of what they need, and their incomes are reducing as they enter retirement. So China’s business model is changing. […]

China’s polymer expansions make new US exports hard to place Read More

Brazil’s PE market shifts from import to export as recession bites

4 years ago, Brazil’s polyethylene market flagged up the first warning signs that its GDP was hitting headwinds, as China’s stimulus programme begin to slow.  Today, sadly, the economy is in major recesssion, with the impeachment process against President Rousseff adding further pressure: World Bank data shows GDP fell 3.7% last year: they forecast “only” […]

Brazil’s PE market shifts from import to export as recession bites Read More

China’s PE imports tumble as market slows, local output rises

The above chart is a major wake-up call for anyone who still believes that China will continue to import ever-increasing volumes of major commodities such as polyethylene (PE).  It suggests demand and import growth are now at much lower levels than in the past, and may even have begun to peak. The chart shows cumulative volumes in […]

China’s PE imports tumble as market slows, local output rises Read More

Deflation gains: China’s plastics market sees over-capacity

More and more commentators are beginning to recognise that deflation is becoming inevitable in many major economies: China’s producer prices fell -4.3% last month, and its consumer prices rose just 0.8% Eurozone consumer prices fell in December to -0.2%, and are likely to have fallen further in January US prices rose just 0.8% in December and are […]

Deflation gains: China’s plastics market sees over-capacity Read More

China’s slowdown hits PE imports from N America and NE Asia

A manufacturing slowdown is now well underway in China, as the latest official and unofficial Indices confirm. The government is mitigating this via its policy of self-sufficiency – which means a steady reduction in the need for imports – as well as by increasing exports of higher value-added products such as polyethylene (PE).  PE is the largest volume plastic, used in […]

China’s slowdown hits PE imports from N America and NE Asia Read More

China sees $13.5bn of fake September ‘collateral trade’ invoices

China’s ‘collateral trade’ is still a major force in world markets for iron ore, copper and even plastics such as polyethylene.  September’s data suggests $13.5bn of fake invoices added 56% to the value of China’s exports to Hong Kong, as property developers strove to raise cash to finish their buildings. Full details of the trade […]

China sees $13.5bn of fake September ‘collateral trade’ invoices Read More

Turkish plastics markets see imports fall for first time since 2008

Turkey is the blog’s “go-to” market when it wants to confirm trends in global markets.  The reason is that Turkey has a very successful downstream industry, but has failed to invest in upstream capacity.  This means it is essentially an opportunistic market from a sellers’ viewpoint. During good times, exporters will only divert product from […]

Turkish plastics markets see imports fall for first time since 2008 Read More

Polymer markets at risk if China’s ‘collateral trade’ unwinds

Global metal markets are at growing risk from developments in China’s ‘collateral trade’, as yesterday’s post highlighted.  Worryingly, so are products such as polyethylene and ethylene glycol, as it seems likely these have also been used as collateral more recently.  This will be bad news for producers already suffering from slowing demand: China’s economy continues to weaken as the […]

Polymer markets at risk if China’s ‘collateral trade’ unwinds Read More

China’s $10bn trade deal fraud hits iron ore and copper markets

Iron ore prices on China’s futures market were at 5-year lows yesterday.  Copper prices also weakened in Australia.  This adds to the blog’s concern that China’s ‘collateral trade’ market is getting closer and closer to its ‘moment of truth’. This will come as an awful shock to most outside observers, who have been led to believe China’s vast imports […]

China’s $10bn trade deal fraud hits iron ore and copper markets Read More

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 […]

US ethylene outages boost European and Asian PE producers Read More

Eliminating the impossible in China’s polyethylene market

Very large amounts of copper, iron and other commodities are in long-term storage in China as part of the ‘collateral trade’.  More recently, it seems large amounts of polyethylene (PE), ethylene glycol (MEG) and probably other chemicals have also started to be used for the trade. None of this used to matter when the Chinese economy was booming.  Why […]

Eliminating the impossible in China’s polyethylene market Read More

Polyethylene, shadow banking and China’s ‘collateral trade’

The blog’s latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog is below. By Paul Hodges of International eChem Strange things are happening in China’s polyethylene (PE) market. Despite a slowdown in the economy, demand is surging. Our research suggests that PE, like copper and iron before it, is the latest instrument of China’s […]

Polyethylene, shadow banking and China’s ‘collateral trade’ Read More

China’s PE imports jump 26% as credit bubble peaks

Strange things are happening in China’s polyethylene (PE) market, as the chart shows: Imports suddenly jumped 26% in Q1 (red column) versus last year (green) This would be an extraordinary amount at any time, but especially now with the economy slowing It comes at a time when China’s own production continued to increase, up 8% As a result, […]

China’s PE imports jump 26% as credit bubble peaks Read More

China focuses on domestic PE production, ME/SEA imports

China’s growth has been the main support for the global economy since the Crisis began in Q4 2008.  The slide above captures the extent of this in polyethylene (PE), one of the world’s largest chemical markets, based on data from China’s chemical association and Global Trade Information Services: The total market grew 11% in the 3 […]

China focuses on domestic PE production, ME/SEA imports Read More

US polyethylene and PVC exporters focus on margin, not volume

2013 has seen 3 types of markets develop for the blog’s IeC Downturn Monitor portfolio as the chart above shows: Financial assets such as the S&P 500 (purple) have soared, as did the US$ against the yen (orange) Crude oil (blue) and naphtha (black) tried to follow, but found it difficult to pass though the higher prices Benzene (green) and […]

US polyethylene and PVC exporters focus on margin, not volume Read More

Scenario planning critical in forecasting 2014 China product growth

Anyone not closely studying trade data is likely to make some very expensive mistakes over the next few years.  The reason is that economics is no longer the sole driver for purchase decisions.  Instead, political and social issues can be of greater importance. The chart above of China’s polyethylene demand highlights this complexity, using Global […]

Scenario planning critical in forecasting 2014 China product growth Read More

What goes up, comes down

Don’t panic is the blog’s suggestion, after last week’s market collapse.

Instead, the important thing is to plan for what might happen next. Scenario planning is absolutely critical to survival over coming months.

The blog’s advice is to assemble yo…

What goes up, comes down Read More

China’s slowdown continues

Today’s purchasing manager index shows China’s manufacturing is now contracting across the country.

As always, petchem markets have been leading indicators of this slowdown. And worrying, China’s polyethylene (PE) markets are showing no sign of any i…

China’s slowdown continues Read More

The Downturn arrives

It is 5 months since the blog launched its IeC Downturn Alert, using prices from 29 April. It wrote then that:

“They don’t ring bells at market turning points. Otherwise, we could all retire to the Bahamas.”

But its argument was that a peak was li…

The Downturn arrives Read More

Time for leadership at EPCA

The chemical industry has a turnover of $3.4trn, and is the world’s 3rd largest industry. It matters to the global economy.

Many of its leaders are about to meet next weekend in Berlin for the annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting….

Time for leadership at EPCA Read More