Tag Archives | shale gas

Investors worry US ethylene expansions mimic mining downturn

I spent most of last week in New York and Boston, meeting with major investors.  One key topic on all their agendas was the major downturn underway in the global mining industry.  The connection with my visit was that some have already begun to worry that the planned US ethylene expansions may lead to a […]

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US producers face uphill battle to increase PE sales in China

China is the world’s largest polyethylene market.  One-third of the way through the year, it  is therefore interesting to analyse the ratio of its own production versus imports, and look at relative import market shares.  The chart shows annual data since 2005, with 2015 data to April, based on trade data from Global Trade Information […]

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Chemical companies highlight increased uncertainty and volatility in Q1 results

Volatility creates uncertainty.  And uncertainty can easily lead to paralysis, if a company hasn’t planned ahead for the range of potential scenarios that might develop.  This is the risk highlighted in my usual analysis of quarterly results. A key warning sign is the divide that has developed recently in performance in different regions and industry sectors, […]

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US Marcellus gas output trebles as drilling rig count halves

Simple stories aren’t always true.  That’s certainly the case with the fiction that the fall in the number of US oil drilling rigs will soon reduce US oil production. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson recently reminded us of this critical point: “Clearly a significant decline in rig activity did not diminish the continued growth of […]

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Lower oil prices support European cracker operating rates

Who would have believed, a few years ago, that European cracker operators would see an operating rate of 84% as something to celebrate?  It would have been thought a disaster prior to 2008, when rates typically ranged around 90%. But whilst nobody is flying flags, last year was the best year since 2007.  And as […]

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China’s PE imports tumble as market slows, local output rises

The above chart is a major wake-up call for anyone who still believes that China will continue to import ever-increasing volumes of major commodities such as polyethylene (PE).  It suggests demand and import growth are now at much lower levels than in the past, and may even have begun to peak. The chart shows cumulative volumes in […]

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China becomes net exporter of PVC as property bubble bursts

China’s property bubble is collapsing, with average house prices now down 10% from their peak.  As agents Knight Frank note, “The developers have two to five years of stock to clear. So until that has been cleared, prices aren’t going up any time soon” We are also seeing more bankruptcies amongst property developers.  These began a […]

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US housing markets weaken as home ownership levels fade

Data over the past month continues to confirm my fears that the US housing recovery is going into reverse.  The argument was summed up yesterday by S&P’s chairman, when reporting Case/Shiller housing price data for December: “The housing recovery is faltering. While prices and sales of existing homes are close to normal, construction and new home […]

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Oil prices at $50/bbl, China slowdown – the New Normal arrives

Welcome to the New Normal. The Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus has led global oil prices to drop back to $50/bbl.  Meanwhile China, the major source of demand growth since 2009, is now seeing a major slowdown. And, of course, this is still only the beginning of the great transformation that is now underway as we enter […]

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US shale gas bubble will end in tears for ethylene expansions

A return to lower oil prices is good news for the global economy.  But it is bad news for all those who have invested in expanding ethylene production on the assumption that US gas prices would maintain the temporary advantage of recent years.  As the chart shows: Oil (blue line) has around 6x the energy […]

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