Capacity glut dooms styrene arbitrage - producer

23 January 2009 22:51  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--An open styrene monomer (SM) arbitrage window to Europe will slam shut as US and European sellers rush to capitalise by restarting idled capacity, a North American producer said on Friday.

Three weeks of open arbitrage have drawn large volumes off the US Gulf coast, generating demand for the lacklustre benzene spot market and pushing up the SM feedstock’s cost, brokers and traders said.

But with three weeks of material on the water and producers on both sides of the Atlantic rushing to meet the demand and rebuild inventories, a return to over-supplied conditions could be less than a week away, the US seller said.

INEOS NOVA has restarted its 770,000 tonne/year Bayport plant in Texas and its 455,000 tonne/year Sarnia facility in Ontario, Canada, a source said. A company spokesperson did not have information on the restarts.

Dow Chemical has restarted its Styrene Two line in Freeport, Texas, said company spokesperson Tracie Copeland. Dow's two styrene production lines have a total capacity of 680,000 tonnes/year.

The SM plants were taken down in the fourth quarter of 2008 due to weak demand and falling prices, which made continued production untenable.

In the three weeks that styrene sellers have enjoyed arbitrage to Europe, US spot benzene gained more than 30%, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

US Gulf coast styrene barges were talked in the mid-to-high 20s cents/lb FOB, while bids/offers for spot benzene were at around $1.23-1.28/gal FOB (free on board).

($1 = €0.77)

For more on styrene visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Landon Feller
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