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Polyols Asia Transcript
Polyether polyols is a polymer made from propylene oxide or PO. It comes in a wide variety of grades based on end use.
Polyols are mostly used to produce flexible or rigid polyurethane or PU foams through a reaction with either toluene diisocyanate TDI or methylene-di-p-phenlyamine diisocyanate or MDI.
In Asia, the largest polyether polyols production capacity is in China, while South Korea is the largest exporter. However, Chinese producers are actively expanding their global presence, due to further capacity expansions.
The Asian polyols market is traded on a spot basis with prices influenced by supply and demand fundamentals and upstream propylene and PO values.
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Weak demand for polyether polyols in the Middle East exerted downward pressure on polyol prices for a large part of the fourth quarter of 2012. Market sources attributed the weak demand to the ongoing economic uncertainty, which has weakened the demand for consumer products. Prices fell to a low of $1,800-1,850/tonne CFR (cost & freight) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)/Middle East and $1,650-1,700/tonne CFR GCC/Middle East in early December for flexible slabstocks and rigid foam, respectively.
However, firming feedstock propylene oxide (PO) costs left suppliers with little choice but to implement price hikes in January, as they struggled with squeezed margins. For the week ended 14 February, flexible slabstocks prices were at $2,050-2,150/tonne CFR GCC/Middle East, while rigid foam prices were at $1,750-1,850/tonne CFR GCC/Middle East.
Going forward, some suppliers were said to be mulling the possibility of further price hikes. Nonetheless, buyers and end-users felt that this cost-driven increase in polyol prices is not sustainable given that demand is still fundamentally weak.
Updated to mid-February 2013
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