No shortage of naphtha for ethylene producers in 2010 - trader

03 March 2010 13:22  [Source: ICIS news]

BRUSSELS (ICIS news)--Naphtha will not be short in 2010 and ethylene producers need not worry about obtaining feedstock, said a senior naphtha trader at an industry conference on Wednesday.

There will be sufficient supply because long-awaited Middle East capacities finally began to come on stream in the second half of 2009, with more due in the first half of 2010, said Ken Holmes, a naphtha trader most recently at Hess Energy Trading Co.

He was speaking at the 5th ICIS World Olefins Conference in Brussels, Belgium.

At the same time, he said, European supply of naphtha will increase as its olefins industry shrinks, and there will be an increasing necessity to export due to the larger volumes of naphtha coming out of North Africa.

“Despite the fact that refineries in northwest Europe have cut crude runs…countries on Europe’s periphery haven’t, and won’t, reduce refinery throughput. They will all run regardless,” said Holmes.

On the demand side, he said, the increase in Middle East polymer production will subdue the growth in the petrochemical industry in Asia in 2010.

“In the third quarter, the east becomes balanced, with major projects in the [United Arab] Emirates coming on at the end of the second quarter, or the beginning of the third quarter,” said Holmes.

“Everyone looks to China as the great saviour [of the naphtha industry] but the net impact on naphtha this year is not a lot. China’s imports of naphtha are not going to be that big,” he added.

South America’s net naphtha exports will be reduced, largely due to Brazil’s need to import naphtha to cover gasoline demand and Colombia’s requirement for heavy crude dilution, Holmes said.

The world balance of supply and demand will be effectively balanced in 2010, he said.

“Petrochemical demand will not dictate the naphtha market on its own…Europe makes more naphtha than it needs. The east takes some of it. But if not, what will happen this year?” Holmes asked.

“The US imports somewhere between 10 and 15m tonnes/year of naphtha and that flexibility keeps the world market in balance. However, US ethylene won’t take the world’s 2010 surpluses.

“So it’s all down to US refining and blending economics,” he added.

The 5th ICIS World Olefins Conference takes place in Brussels on 3 March.

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By: Barbara Ortner
+44 20 8652 3214

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