US phenol bottleneck keeping PC prices firm - sources

08 June 2010 17:11  [Source: ICIS news]

(recast with chart)

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A bottleneck in US phenol supply has prevented falling benzene prices from relieving the polycarbonate (PC) market, sources said on Tuesday.

The nearly 80 cents/gal drop in benzene prices since the beginning of 2010 should have helped reverse PC values, which rose to an average of $1.53/lb ($3,373/tonne, €2,833/tonne) on 2 June from $1.32/lb at the beginning of January.

But PC producers said the recent shortage of phenol - the intermediate of benzene and phenol - was blocking any price relief for the plastic, sources said.

PC producer SABIC Innovative Plastics even nominated a 16 cents/lb PC price increase for 6 July despite the drop in benzene costs. 

“I have not seen falling benzene effecting PC,” a broker said. “Producers are leaning on the phenol shortage.”

Phenol supply contracted dramatically during the first half of this year as producers Dow Chemical, Sunoco, Shell and Georgia Gulf had experienced turnarounds shortly after the US exported huge volumes of material to Asia.

Phenol inventories were easing as Dow, Sunoco and Shell had restarted their lines, however.

The PC supply situation remained opaque, however, with buyers saying they had experienced lead times ranging from six weeks to three days for material.

“We were able to get material within a week - it just depends on who has inventory,” a compounder said.

phenol graph

($1 = €0.84)

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By: Ben Lefebvre
+1 713 525 2653



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