There was never any fundamental reason why oil prices should have doubled between January and June this year. There were no physical shortages of product, or long-term outages at key producers. But of course, there was never any fundamental reason for prices to treble between 2009 – 2011 in the Stimulus rally, or to jump […]
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Capacity Utilisation (CU%) is the best measure we have for the current state of the global chemical industry. It doubles as an excellent proxy for the outlook for the global economy. And as the above chart based on latest American Chemistry Council data shows, recovery still seems a long way off: Global CU% was down […]
Our 13th annual World Aromatics & Derivatives Conference takes place in Berlin next week. Jointly organised as always by International eChem and ICIS, it features a must-hear list of speakers: ExxonMobil: Europe Business Director Tim Stedman will give a global market overview Dow Chemical: Global Business Director Pieter Platteeuw will discuss the future for benzene […]
China’s auto industry has seen extraordinary growth since the downturn began in the West in Q4 2008. The government encouraged lending, and also cut taxes on auto sales. As a result, sales jumped 49% in 2009, from 6.9m to 10.3m. And then they jumped a further 29% in 2010. In 2011, however, sales have slowed […]
History doesn’t repeat, but it sometimes rhymes. That was the insight of the famed American writer, Mark Twain. 2 weeks ago, this led the blog to highlight the similarities between the geo-political concerns then developing in Egypt, and the Israel/Iran stand-off which had marked the oil price peak in June 2008. We still cannot be […]
Benzene markets have become increasingly volatile over the past few years. This is because there are now no major sources available of on-purpose supply, to balance demand. My speech at our Aromatics Conference in Berlin last week highlighted the changes that had taken place. Over the past 2 years, benzene spreads versus naphtha had fluctuated […]
Q3 showed no real improvement in European cracker operating rates (OR%). As the chart shows, based on APPE data, these remained at 82% for the Q1 – Q3 period. Of course, this is much better than the 76% OR% seen in 2009, but it would not normally be a matter for celebration. However, the ‘silver […]
As promised, the 3rd of the blog’s series on the changes underway in the pricing of the major ‘building block’ chemicals, looks at benzene. The chart above shows its ‘spread’ versus naphtha, the key dynamic from a price and margin perspective. As can be seen, this was normally in the $80/t – $200/t range until […]
Shell and Saudi Aramco have now confirmed plans to spend $7bn to build what they term ‘the first new refinery in the U.S. in more than 30 years’. They will achieve this by adding 325,000 barrels per day (b/d) to their existing Port Arthur, Texas, facility, taking total capacity to 600,000 b/d. It is scheduled […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such as oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts.
Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.