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Hurricane Harvey will turbocharge move to the circular economy

300,000 homes and half a million cars have been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.  And in terms of business, it is often forgotten that Houston is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other metro area than New York.  The damage will take years to repair, as families have to regroup and re-establish their lives […]

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Plastics demand is peaking as circular economy arrives

The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.  Similarly, coal is being left in the ground because we no longer need it any more.  And the same is happening to oil, as Saudi Arabia recognised last year in its Vision 2030: “Within 20 years, we will be an economy that doesn’t depend mainly […]

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Sinopec’s results confirm China’s focus on employment and self-sufficiency, not profit

China’s strategies for oil, refining and petrochemical production are very different from those in the West, as analysis of Sinopec’s Annual and 20-F Reports confirms.  As the above chart shows, it doesn’t aim to maximise profit: □  Since 1998, it has spent $45bn on capex in the refining sector, and $38bn in the chemicals sector □ […]

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China’s increase in chemicals self-sufficiency will hit US shale gas expansions

Some years ago, when China was well on the way to becoming the world’s largest importer of chemicals, a reporter asked the chairman of Sinochem, China’s largest chemical company if China intended to keep increasing its imports?  “Not at all” was Su Shulin’s reply, “This is temporary.  It is not our strategy.  We will become […]

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European petrochemical output still below 2004 – 2007 levels

The financial crisis began a decade ago, yet production of the key “building block products” for the European petrochemical industry has still not recovered to its pre-Crisis peak, as the chart shows (based on new APPE data):   Combined production of ethylene, propylene and butadiene (olefins) peaked at 39.7 million tonnes in 2007   A […]

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4.5 million tonnes of new US polyethylene exports on front-line as War of Words hits US-China trade

“There isn’t anybody who knows what is going to happen in the next 12 months. We’ve never been here before. Things are out of control. I have never seen a situation like it.” This comment last month from former UK Finance Minister, Ken Clarke, aptly summarises the uncertainty facing the global economy. As I note in a new analysis, major policy changes are […]

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Force majeures hit new record high as safety loses out to profits

Just when you think something really can’t get any worse, it does.  Sadly, that’s the story on chemical industry force majeures since my last half-year review.  As I noted then: “There is no such thing as an accident. The chemical industry, like others, has known this for over 30 years, since the adoption of Quality […]

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FT

No conspiracy on raw materials pricing – the business model has changed

The Financial Times kindly prints my letter this morning on pricing policies for polyethylene. Sir, Conspiracy theories are always good fun, and Robert Bateman’s views on the polyethylene market are no exception (Letters, December 29). But there is a much more prosaic explanation for the pricing structures he describes. The key issue is that until […]

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Industry needs new strategy to spread benefits of globalisation

The Brexit vote, and Donald Trump’s election, confirm that we are in a New Normal world.  In the interview below with Will Beacham, Deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business, I highlight some ideas about how industry needs to adapt. BARCELONA (ICIS)–The global chemical sector needs to stimulate demand for innovative products and services in mature […]

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Chemical company results highlight growing weakness down the value chains

Looking down the table below of chemical company’s reports, its hard to be very optimistic about the outlook. The first half of the year disappointed, as I noted in August.  Then Q3 saw major volatility as the hedge funds and high frequency traders played their games in the oil market – prices weakened as demand […]

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