25 May 2010 17:58 [Source: ICIS news]
By Heather McGuire Doyle
Predicting the weather, production hiccups, volume requirements and consumer demand are so easy a caveman could do it, right?
Forecasting has become such a challenge during these hot-tempered economic times that resorting to darts, crystal balls, fortune tellers and even chimpanzees has become the latest rage among those in the petrochemical sector. Seriously.
The US-based ?xml:namespace>
“NOAA's outlooks have been wrong three out of the last four years - or 75% of the time,” said David Ridenour, vice president of NCPPR. “We think our chimp can do better. He hasn't been wrong so far. Of course, this is his very first hurricane season forecast.”
In a You Tube video produced by the NCPPR, a chimpanzee dressed as a scientist rolls the dice to predict the number of Atlantic hurricanes. The minimum number of hurricanes predicted - six. The maximum number - eight.
Ironically, meteorologists at
NOAA will release its hurricane forecast later this week.
The NCPPR makes clear where its “monkeying around” is directed: “The video isn't intended to needle the NOAA for its erroneous forecasts, but to make a larger point about our current understanding of climate.”
“NOAA's forecasts have been wrong not because of a lack of dedication or competence of its forecast team, but because climate science is really still in its infancy,” said NCPPR president Amy Ridenour.
Oil prices and petrochemical production have been fickle in the last few years as a result of political, economic and natural events that many would argue few saw coming.
In August and September of 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita hammered the US Gulf Coast barely 30 days apart, destroying 113 oil and natural gas production platforms and eight drilling rigs in Gulf waters. Onshore refining and petrochemical facilities were knocked out for weeks.
More recently, Hurricane Ike made landfall in
Just months later, the global recession pulled crude oil prices below $30/bbl.
The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico hurricane season begins on 1 June in the
Chemical sellers are worried that a hurricane could disrupt logistics and prevent products from getting to buyers. Chemical buyers are worried they won’t be able to get the raw materials needed for their end products, or prices may soar.
“We in the chemical community see inflation before the rest of the world,” a purchaser said.
Not a single hurricane has hit the US Gulf this year, but markets are already roiled as buyers scramble ahead of the storm season. Weak demand for fuel products earlier this year pushed refineries to operate at low levels, and that affected the supply and production of many petrochemicals.
Demand from the key end-use sectors housing and automotive has surpassed most expectations and flustered forecasts, leaving a storm before the storm.
A large-volume base oils buyer said that it is the tightest supply situation seen in over four years, surpassing even a difficult shortage of base oils following the hurricanes in 2008.
Perhaps the NCPPR makes out a good point in that the industry is always on a learning curve, sources said.
“I’ve heard that forecasting [base oil] trends has become a lot like weather forecasting,” a large-volume base oil buyer said. “The patterns in this industry are right too often to ignore but wrong too often to rely on.”
If the chimpanzee does better than NOAA, the NCPPR has challenged the agency to make him an honorary member of NOAA’s hurricane specialists unit.
If the doctor can’t land the job, maybe a few purchasing offices would not mind hiring him.
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
|ICIS news FREE TRIAL|
|Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index|