As this updated table from my colleagues at CBI in China illustrates, cracker-complex delays in China have the potential to further stagger the arrival of new volumes into the market.
This follows the widespread problems in starting up new capacity in the Middle East.
The 800,000 tonne/year Fujian Petrochemical/ExxonMobil/Saudi Aramco cracker is on-stream, but there have been operating issues with downstream PE.
But the Dunshanzi complex, centred on a 1m tonne/year, was commissioned on schedule in September. The operating rate is reported to be 85% with product being sold across China.
2.56m tonne/year of capacity is due to start-up this year compared with the original 3.56m tonnne/year.
In Thailand, the new 400,000 tonne/year PTT linear-low density polyethylene (LLDPE) plant is due to start next week, but the 1m tonne/year cracker won’t be on-stream until the end of the year/Q1 2010.
A new 300,000 tonne/year low-density polyethylene (LDPE) project is not due to be commissioned until Q3 next year, according to ICIS Plants and Projects.
The start-up is being fed by ethylene from existing crackers, but it’s not clear whether this will be sufficient to quickly achieve optimal rates
Further out, there appears to be some more good news for existing producers from China.
The 800,000 tonne/year Fushun cracker, originally scheduled for 2011, has been delayed to 2102. An associated refinery has already started up, but only preliminary work has taken place on the petrochemicals complex.
There are also unconfirmed reports of operating problems at several Middle East complexes brought on-stream this year.
“I think an on-going problem in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region is going to be the shortage of natural-gas supply,” said an industry source.
“Every summer, until this problem is resolved, you are going to see a big pull of gas into the power sector at the expense of petrochemicals.”
He suggested that there might also be issues with stabilising production at several new gas-phased polyethylene (PE) plants due to their scale.
Existing crackers in Iran are expected to continue to experience deep rate cuts in winter as gas is diverted for domestic and power-generation consumption. Iran has plenty of natural-gas reserves, but political difficulties have slowed down investment in extraction.