NPRA '10: PE exports seen dropping but US could regain edge

28 March 2010 18:16  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--US polyethylene exports will likely drop in the coming months, but the US could regain an edge in the export market if ethylene prices return to levels from early 2010, a plastics trader said on Sunday.

Talk that US PE exports are poised for a major drop in the second quarter is widespread, as a recent surge in monomer prices have made US resin less competitive in Asia and Latin America.

US ethylene prices skyrocketed in the first quarter of 2010, lifted by tight supply caused mainly by a spree of unplanned shutdowns after the turn of the year.

US spot ethylene for March/April was assessed at 61.00-63.00 cents/lb ($1,345-1,389/tonne or €1,009-1,042/tonne) on Friday, down from 70.00 cents/lb in early March, but up from 42.50-43.00 cents/lb in the first week of January, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

Ethylene would have to drop back to the high 40.00s cents/lb for PE to be competitive again in the export market, the trader said on the sidelines of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) meeting in San Antonio.

That could happen because the US can be very competitive, the trader said, pointing to the cost advantage of ethane against naphtha.

According to the source, the US has exported around 30%, or 800,000 tonnes, of its PE production in recent months.

Major US PE producers include Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Formosa, INEOS, Total, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Westlake and LyondellBasell.

The NPRA's International Petrochemical Conference runs Sunday through Tuesday.

($1 = €0.75)

For more on olefins, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: William Lemos
+1 713 525 2653

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