By Malini Hariharan
Just when Asian propylene prices started easing comes news of disruptions in production and price hikes in the West.
Propylene availability in Europe was hit after a strike by Total's refinery workers early in the week resulted in the closure of 36% of France's C3 capacity. This forced Total to declare force majeure on propylene supplies. Then Shell Chemicals declared force majeure on ethylene and propylene supplies from its Moerdijk cracker in the Netherlands due to reduced operating rates.
The strike at Total has been called off and production at the refineries will be restarting soon but the developments helped tighten an already short European market and supported an increase in the March propylene contract price, reports ICIS news.
The US too is expected to see increases in propylene prices with one producer nominating a $110 increase for March.
Asian propylene prices have yet to react strongly to these developments although sellers are trying to raise prices. They will of course be supported in this endeavour by upcoming cracker turnarounds.
"Some traders are also trying to take Asian propylene to the West; we had an offer. But the arbitrage window is not big. Asia appears to be adequately supplied," says a source from a major Asian cracker operator.
Meanwhile, the propylene situation has started to impact PP markets. European buyers are bracing for PP price hikes in March while offers in the Middle East have already risen by $30/tonne, reports ICIS news. Availability from this region is likely to be constrained in March as Oman Polypropylene and Advanced Polypropylene will be carrying out maintenance shutdowns in March.
"Polymer markets opened with a bang after the Lunar New Year; prices went up yesterday. There are the Asian turnarounds and people are still struggling with new plants," the source points out. This is certainly creating room for optimism, he adds.