Europe phenol's tight supply causes some players to ‘panic'

30 April 2010 13:27  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--There are serious concerns in the European phenol market over tight supply amid a declaration of force majeure, a stock allocation and planned turnarounds, sources said on Friday.

“It’s really a mess. Customers are crazy, asking for product. They are desperate,” confirmed one European producer.

Another producer said: “Yes, I would use the expression ‘panic’. I am getting demand from everywhere. Buyers are making some big pressure just to get 500 tonnes, and they are fighting.”

On 23 April, CEPSA Quimica declared force majeure on phenol and acetone from its plant at Huelva, Spain. Major corrosion was detected on CEPSA’s newest line, the third, and an investigation was under way.

Earlier that same day, INEOS Phenol announced it had put phenol customers on 85% allocation for phenol contract volumes, because of problems with the availability of raw materials.

Since then, INEOS Phenol has confirmed that its cumene supply problems had been resolved, but allocation was still in place ahead of a planned turnaround.

INEOS Phenol will enter into a 14-day planned turnaround at its site at Gladbeck, Germany, on 18 May. The site has a capacity of 650,000 tonnes/year of phenol and 395,000 tonnes/year of acetone.

In addition, Borealis began a shutdown in early April at its 195,000 tonne/year phenol and 120,000 tonne/year acetone facilities in Porvoo, Finland, which was to last four to five weeks.

Market sources also raised the issue of possible production outages at phenol and acetone facilities in Poland and Slovakia.

“Acetone is not as bad as phenol. But all the producers, everybody, is looking for material,” said an active phenol and acetone trader in the European market.

Although phenol buyers voiced concern about the supply situation, they said they thought it would not be a long-term issue.

A major buyer for the production of adipic acid said: “For sure, it’s not an easy situation. But, more or less, we are able to manage. In phenol, we have had a little bit of trouble and had to review our plans but we will overcome this.”

A second buyer, which consumes phenol for phenolic resin production, said it had informed it customers that phenol was tight and that it was swapping phenol between sites to cover urgent needs.

The phenolic resin producer said that it was difficult to gauge if customers were “fishing around” or if demand was increasing.

“Phenol availability is a disaster,” said a reseller in the bisphenol A (BPA) market. “There is no material available for May. It is the worst situation I have seen in the BPA market for 10-15 years.”

The pre-discounted April phenol contract price settled at €1,377-1,417/tonne ($1,812-1,864/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe).

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Julia Meehan
+44 20 8652 3214

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