Tag Archives | shale gas

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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Companies see confidence ebb away as China slows, US cost advantage weakens

It feels like the end of an era, as we survey the usual quarterly update of chemical company results.  For several years, there have been 3 or 4 key dimensions: US companies have been very profitable due to shale gas Asian companies have done well with volume, due to Chinese demand Middle Eastern companies have done well due to […]

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The real challenge is a lack of challenge

We all remember the Hans Christian Andersen story about the Emperor with no clothes.  His subjects were told that only those who were stupid or incompetent would be unable to see his wonderful new suit. Of course, nobody wanted to appear stupid or incompetent.  So when the Emperor paraded in his new clothes, nobody wanted to tell him the obvious.  It was left to a child […]

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US PVC exports tumble as demand weakens in key markets

The US PVC industry is hitting new problems, to add to the post-2006 collapse of the US housing market. Yet only 10 years ago, it was riding high.  Demand into housing (the main outlet) was at record levels thanks to subprime lending, and PVC production had just hit a record 7.3 million tonnes. Even after the financial Crisis, global […]

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Next ACS webinar on Thursday 5 June

“Not with a bang but with a whimper”. The blog’s 6-monthly webinar for the American Chemical Society (ACS) takes place next Thursday, 5 June, at 14.00 Eastern Summer Time.  And once again, the ACS has kindly arranged for blog readers to register for it free of charge. As feared in last December’s Year-end Review, the promised economic […]

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