Archive | January, 2011

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PetroChina offer $1bn for INEOS European refining JV

INEOS have today announced that PetroChina have made an “irrevocable offer of $1.015bn for a 50% share in its European refining business“. This is an excellent price, given the current weak performance of the European refining industry. INEOS’ negotiating team have clearly done a superb job in ensuring that PetroChina looked beyond these difficulties, and […]

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China’s PE imports slip: Middle East gains market share

China has been the main source of chemical and polymer demand growth over the past 2 years. But newly released trade data suggests its import volume on core products such as polyethylene may now be reducing, as more domestic capacity comes online. Equally, Asian producers, and the USA, face strong competition from low-cost Middle East […]

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European ethylene at 82% operating rate in 2010

European operating rates (OR%) for ethylene averaged just 82% in 2010, according to APPE data this week. This meant there was no improvement over H1 OR%, suggesting the recovery from 2009′s 76% OR% has stalled. Of course, in terms of profitability, 2010 will have been a great year. The industry did its usual excellent job […]

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US housing markets remain depressed

There was much discussion in the popular media of a possible US housing market upturn, during the blog’s visit last week. It was based on news of a 17% rise in building permits during December, often a leading indicator of future demand. But as the above chart shows, from the American Chemical Council’s weekly report, […]

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Aromatics ‘spreads’ remain stable

Benzene has always been the blog’s favourite indicator for the economic outlook. It has the most number of applications, due to its head-start in being a major product when coal was the main feedstock. Equally, paraxylene (PX) is an excellent indicator of demand in emerging economies, as their rise in living standards leads to greater […]

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China tightens lending: Saudi may pump more oil

Recent days have seen some signs that the tectonic plates under current chemical and polymer markets may be starting to shift. The most important has been the rapid rise in inter-bank lending rates in Shanghai. As the chart shows from Petromatrix, these have begun to rocket. A year ago, the rate at which banks could […]

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Olefin ‘spreads’ remain volatile

Last March, the blog highlighted the major changes taking place in ethylene, propylene and butadiene prices versus naphtha. It also analysed them in ICIS Chemical Business in September. The above chart now summarises the 2010 outcome, using European prices to enable comparison over the last 30 years. It was a most remarkable year. The chart […]

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Coatings companies focus on carbon footprint issues

The blog has been in the USA this week, speaking at the bi-annual Global Coatings Summit. Coatings sales are worth $75bn globally, and are a key market for chemicals. Interestingly, much of the discussion centred around sustainability. In spite of the downturn, it is clear that consumers are now very focused on carbon footprint as […]

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China’s economy ends 2010 at new highs

China’s economy ended 2010 on yet another high. As the chart shows, bank lending (red column) and electricity consumption (blue line), remained very strong: • Electricity usage was up 15% in 2010 versus 2009 • Bank lending was RMB 7.9trn ($1.2trn), above the RMB 7.5trn target The change since the start of the Crisis is […]

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New Normal workshop in Singapore next month

Major changes are underway in demand patterns for chemicals and polymers. They are being driven by demographics. The ‘BabyBoomers’ (those people born between 1946-70 in the major industrial countries) are the richest, and largest, generation the world has ever seen: • As they entered the 25 – 54 age group, they caused an explosion of […]

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