EPCA ’09: Europe solvents players unphased by Berre closure

05 October 2009 18:06  [Source: ICIS news]

BERLIN (ICIS news)--European isopropanol (IPA) and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) players are taking in their stride the recent closure of LyondellBasell’s solvents facility at Berre, France, industry participants said on Monday.

Existing and new capacity in Europe, imports and demand shrinkage meant that the effects of the solvents facility’s closure would not be significant, although there could be some regional variation, sources said.

Sources were speaking on the sidelines of the 43rd annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting.

“In terms of overall volumes, there is no major impact. The European MIBK capacity is very close to European demand, even when demand restores to historical levels, [prior to the economic downturn]. Then there are the imports,” said one source.

For IPA, in addition to existing European production, sources also referred to Novapex’s plans to bring a new IPA facility on stream in France in January 2010.

“Southern Europe will see some impact rather than northwest Europe” due to the Berre site’s position in the Mediterranean, noted some market players.

As solvents are very sensitive to logistical costs, transporting volumes to Shell’s former Berre customers from its Dutch solvents facility at Pernis, the Netherlands, would likely mean larger transportation costs and longer freight times, according to another source.

Solvents demand in 2009 has been lower than in 2008 due to the economic downturn, which was expected to offset the Berre production loss, according to market players.

“The rocketing acetone prices is the major issue at the present [amid tight supply], not the Berre closure,” said one solvents seller.

This may indirectly affect MIBK if suppliers opt to sell better margin acetone rather than convert it to MIBK, sources speculated.  

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By: Heidi Finch
+44 20 8652 3214



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