ICIS price reporting for regional Bitumen markets is unparalleled in its ability to keep you on top of the information you need.
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Our editor gives their expert view
The Asian market for bitumen is estimated at 35-40m tonnes. China’s demand accounts for 20m tonne and the balance is traded throughout the region.
Most regional players buy as locally as possible, and arbitrage is rare. This is because shipping costs can make long distance trade uneconomic.
From a supply perspective, bitumen is sensitive to crude/fuel oil prices. Bitumen is the last component left in a barrel of refined oil, and many refineries have fuel oil/bitumen swing capabilities.
The demand side for bitumen is driven by budgets for large public works such as road building and construction.
Overall, Asia is largely balanced. In North East Asia, China has domestic capacity and imports mainly from South Korea, Thailand and Singapore.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Vietnam mainly import from Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.
Over the medium term, demand is likely to increase in most Asian countries, with China, India and Indonesia likely to see the greatest growth.
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Updated to Q3 2014
China was in its traditional bitumen busy season in the third quarter. Driven by demand, bitumen prices typically rise from the second quarter.
However, not only did Chinese refineries hike bitumen production, but also importers brought quite a lot of imported bitumen into China market, so the China market is still oversupplied. China’s mainstream traded bitumen price of third quarter only rose about CNY100/tonne from the previous quarter.
For example, in East China market, heavy traffic bitumen prices averaged CNY4,292/tonne in September, up by CNY36/tonne or 1% from that in July.
Although many road projects were under construction in the third quarter, bitumen demand growth is weak due to capital tightness and the rainy weather.
However, the importing margin was fairly good in the third quarter, so that lots of cargoes poured into China market. Prices of imported bitumen climbed higher at the same time. For example, the Korea bitumen CFR East China price of Korea bitumen averaged at $565/tonne in September, up by $14/tonne or 3% from that in July.
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ICIS price assessments are based on information gathered from a wide cross-section of the market, comprising consumers, producers, traders and distributors from more than 250 reporters world-wide. Confirmed deals, verified by both buyer and seller, provide the foundation of our price assessments.
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