Europe petchems need to rationalise amid new ME, Asia capacity

25 March 2010 02:50  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A growing tide of ethylene derivative imports will cause significant disruption in the European petrochemical markets from the second half of this year, said an official at consultancy firm De Witt & Co.

“There will be rationalisation [in Europe],” said Joe Duffy, De Witt’s vice president for ethylene, polymers & derivatives for Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, at the 35th Annual DeWitt World Petrochemical Conference.

A flood of ethylene and its associated derivatives was expected to hit the European market from the second quarter of the year as new capacity came on stream in the Middle East and Asia, he said.

In Saudi Arabia, the crackers of PetroRabigh and Yansab have been running after some delays last year, caused by restricted feedstock supplies.

New crackers just started up in Singapore and Thailand, while in China, four new crackers were expected to commence operations.

In the short term, strong Asian growth and a heavy cracker maintenance programme would soften the blow on the European markets, Duffy said.

But unstable operations at new derivative plants would force cracker operators to place large volumes of ethylene into the spot market, Duffy said, citing a 25,000 tonnes of spot sales from PetroRabigh in February 2010.

These volumes would have a damaging effect on pricing in Europe and Asia and will exert greater pressure on hard-pressed European operators.

Europe has a poor track record on industry rationalisation given the prospect of higher unemployment, said Duffy, adding that the process would be long and painful.

With some high cost players resisting the need to rationalise, major integrated players may show the lead, he said.

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By: Peter Taffe
+44 20 8652 3214

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