Brazil shutdowns to restrict olefins supplies

04 March 2008 00:15  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Upcoming maintenance shutdowns of three basic petrochemicals production centres this year will tighten Brazil’s polyolefins market while easing absorption of new production, industry sources said on Monday.

Three out of four basic petrochemicals production centres in Brazil are scheduled to shut down this year for programmed maintenance, according to industry reports.

The Copesul, Braskem and Petroquímica Uniao (PQU) shutdowns will reduce ethylene production by 180,000 tonnes.

Brazil’s total ethylene production amounts to 3.4m tonnes/year, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

The reduced supplies will increase opportunities for price adjustments and could generate some shortages in downstream markets, according to industry sources.

The three petrochemical centres, together with Rio Polimeros (Riopol), make up the first generation of producers that supplies ethylene and propylene to the manufacturers of a large number of plastic resins, rubber, detergents and other products.

Copesul will stop one of two crackers on 31 March in its Triunfo plant. The procedure will last 30 days and will allow maintenance, cleaning and testing. The production loss is estimated at 60,000 tonnes of ethylene.

The plants that consume ethylene made by the Copesul cracker have been warned well in advance, and should have had enough time to grow inventories of raw materials and of products they manufacture, according to industry sources.

Copesul has said it intends also to reduce exports to ensure domestic supply.

Braskem is planning a 20-30 day shutdown in May at its basic chemicals unit in Camaçari in May.

PQU will begin its maintenance at the end of August to resume operations in October. The normal maintenance procedure should last 30 days, but the company will use this event to increase production capacity.

The project will increase ethylene capacity from 500,000 tonnes/year to 700,000 tonnes/year, according to Brazilian press reports. 

The diminished supply may push the sector to increase prices to balance the market, but the situation could open the door to more imports. Currently, Brazil’s prices are above the import parity, according to ICIS pricing.

Braskem executives told ICIS that the new production coming on line in 2008 should not depress Brazilian prices because the idea is to feed growing demand and to substitute imports, which grew by almost 24% during 2007.

Petroquímica Paulinia, a 300,000-350,000 tonnes/year joint venture between Braskem and Petrobras, expected to start operations on 1 April, will produce about 200,000 tonnes this year.

The other project expected to start operations in 2008 is a 200,000 tonne/year polyethylene expansion being built by PQU in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state. The plant was planned to come on line during the third quarter.

Although there is enough demand in Brazil to support new production, the pricing issue cannot be ignored. Imports grew in Brazil because of their price advantages. New domestic production will have to compete in that front, too, if local producers are serious about substituting imports.

Please visit the complete ICIS plants and projects database

By: George Martin
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