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Global chemical operating rates slip to 86%

Global chemical operating rates have shown little improvement over the summer months.  As the chart from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) shows: Rates in July were at 86.4%. compared to 87% in May This compares with the average of 91% between 1987 – 2012, and 86.7% in July 2012 Total production was up 2.8% versus 2012, […]

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Building the Factory of the Future

Over the past 4 years, major European companies and research organisations have been working to define and demonstrate the factory of the future.  Based on the Bayer Technology Services (BTS) site in Leverkusen, Germany, and with €30m ($40m) of European Union and other funding, they have now developed radically new ‘plug and play’ modular technology capable of being implemented widely […]

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Lack of demand threatens US ethylene expansions

The above chart paints a depressing picture for anyone thinking it should be easy to make money via a major US ethylene investment based on cheap ethane from shale gas.   It shows 2012 ethylene production (red column) was still below SuperCycle levels, as were volumes for the two major derivatives – polyethylene (blue) and PVC (green).  It highlights how lack of demand […]

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Earnings disappoint again, as companies face challenge of slowing global growth

Most of today’s executives and policymakers grew up during the SuperCycle.  Many therefore continue to believe that a return to constant growth is somehow inevitable.   Sadly, of course, they are doomed to disappointment.      And disappointment is the predominant message from the blog’s usual quarterly review of company results.  Thus BASF note that “achieving our earnings target […]

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Markets in wait-and-see mode as holiday season arrives

Markets have moved into summer holiday mode in recent weeks whilst they wait for a new direction, as the chart shows.  It is therefore timely to look back over developments since the start of the year: The S&P 500 (purple) has been the clear winner, up 15%.  The key to its out-performance has been the central […]

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Force majeures continue to increase

Companies have clearly been cutting capital budgets, in response to the slowing global economy.  That’s the only conclusion to be drawn from the blog’s 6-monthly review of force majeures, as reported by ICIS news.  They have been climbing steadily for months, and June saw them at twice the June 2012 level, as the chart shows. […]

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10th ICIS Innovation Awards now launched

Innovation is the life-blood of the chemical industry. It is also a critical success factor as we transition to the New Normal. Many of today’s plants and processes are simply too old and too inefficient to remain competitive in a world of slow and volatile economic growth. Yet making the case for investment in new […]

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European cracker operating rates drop below 80%

Q1 was another miserable quarter for EU olefin producers. As the chart shows, based on APPE data, ethylene production at 4.7MT was at the lowest level in the past 10 years, with the exception of 2009. In fact, one has to go back to 1997 to find a lower figure: • Operating rates were thus […]

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Q1 results show the outlook darkening

A year ago, the blog’s quarterly review of company results revealed mixed views on the outlook. Dow were expecting “global growth will gain momentum”, whilst Unilever warned the “external environment remains difficult”. But today, much of the optimism has disappeared and several companies including Dow are now focusing on cost-reduction measures. There are still some […]

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Company results show few signs of any upturn

Economic recovery is already underway, according to the optimists who have bid up financial markets in recent weeks. But the blog’s quarterly review of company results shows little evidence of it on the ground. Phrases such as ‘challenging’, ‘economic uncertainty’, ‘deterioration’ and ‘decline’ dominate the reports across all major regions: • Europe is clearly in […]

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