US PVC spot, export prices rise on high demand, tight supply

18 January 2014 00:27 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US spot and export prices for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) moved up on Friday as strengthening demand pushed the market that is facing constrained supply.

The ICIS export price was assessed upward an average $40/tonne to a new range of $970-1,010/tonne. That was up from $930-970/tonne a week ago.

Spot prices also moved up 3 cents/lb ($66/tonne) to $925-992/tonne, reflecting market sentiment and movement, though producers have said that tight supplies have meant there is no real spot trading being done. 

For January contracts, market participants said that 3 cent/lb hike proposals initiated by producers are largely being accepted based in part on ethylene costs.

The December contract is at $1,367-1,477/tonne for pipe grade and $1,411-1,521/tonne for general purpose PVC.   

Driving the market has been strong seasonal demand during the usual restocking period ahead of the spring construction season and an outage at Axiall’s vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) unit at its Lake Charles plant. It has a capacity of 590,000 tonnes/year.

Several market participants said they have been informed that the plant may be out of production through most of March, a period when several large producers have maintenance turnarounds scheduled.

Sources said that Axiall is producing greater volumes of ethylene dichloride (EDC) at the plant. The increased EDC production allows the company to make more chlor-alkalis. The EDC consumes the chlorine, and the resulting caustic soda allows Axiall to meet sales commitments for the material.

However, the strategy is lengthening EDC supplies for export and countering some of the price pressure from ethylene costs for EDC.

Major US PVC producers include Axiall, Formosa Plastics, Occidental Chemical (OxyChem), Shintech and Westlake.

By Bill Bowen