China's MEG imports surge 49% to historic peak in March

28 April 2010 06:46  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--China’s monoethylene glycol (MEG) import volumes in March increased 49% from the previous month to 688,815 tonnes, due to arbitrage cargoes from North America, and an increased supply from new plants and restarts in the region, market sources said on Wednesday.

"This is the highest monthly import volume ever in China’s history," a market source said.

China’s average monthly import volume for MEG was 485,679 tonnes in 2009, 434,697 tonnes in 2008 and 400,146 tonnes in 2007.

Among all the origins, imports from the US saw the steepest increase in March due to the opening of the arbitrage window in late 2009, the market source said.

China imported 60,369 tonnes of MEG from the US in March, 5.5 times that in February, according to import data provided by the source.

MEG spot barge cargoes were traded as low as around 34.2 cents/lb ($754/tonne, €573/tonne) US Gulf during November-December 2009, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

High Asia prices also attracted 61% more imports from Canada, with total import volumes from the origin reaching 31,773 tonnes in March, according to import data provided by the source.

Restarts and new plant start-ups also contributed to the huge hike in imports, a Japanese trader said.

The restarted and newly started-up plants included those in Taiwan, Singapore and the Middle East, totalling over 3m tonnes/year of MEG capacity.

China imported 139,317 tonnes of MEG from Taiwan, up 54,000 tonnes or 63% from February. The hike in imports was mainly attributed to the restart of Nan Ya Plastics’s 400,000 tonne/year No 2 unit in mid-February, a major supplier said.

"More imports were expected from Singapore as Shell’s new 750,000 tonne/year plant had been raising operating rates along with the start-up of its integrated upstream cracker in late March," a Chinese trader said.

In March, imports from Singapore reached 49,444 tonnes, up 63% from February.

The Middle East has been sending large volumes of MEG to China since mid-February with most plants resuming operation after unconfirmed reports of shutdowns. In March, 48,591 tonnes more MEG imports flowed into China from the Middle East.

The direct impact of the high import volumes was the brimming port inventories, which were estimated at around 530,000-550,000 tonnes by late April, 30% higher than the healthy levels at around 400,000 tonnes, the Japanese trader said.

"Asia MEG faced additional downward pressure in coming months," the trader said, adding that CNOOC & Shell Petrochemical (CSPC) and Nan Ya Plastics were expected to restart their plants in late April.

In addition, Sinopec Zhenhai had ramped up operating rates at its new MEG plant to around 80% recently, a company source said on Wednesday.

($1 = €0.76)

For more on MEG visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Becky Zhang
+65 6780 4359

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