US April liquid caustic soda exports lower by 44%, imports are up

13 June 2014 18:14 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US exports of liquid caustic soda lowered in April, with volumes down 44% from March and down 33% from April 2013, according to data made available this week from the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

There was 269,602 liquid metric tonnes (lmt) shipped in April. There was 477,341 lmt shipped in March, and 400,827 lmt shipped in April of 2013, according to the ITC.

Low chlor-alkali operating rates in North America are blamed for the lowering exports and rising imports. Domestic producers have raised prices and increased arbitrage opportunities to the East Coast and West Coast markets in the US.

However, chlorine and caustic soda production rates are up in May, according to data from The Chlorine Institute, a trade organization that conducts monthly producer surveys. As a result, exports could rise in coming weeks and months, according to industry observers.

In the ITC calculations of the aqueous solution, half of the weight of a liquid metric tonne is water. The other half is caustic soda. So it takes two liquid metric tonnes to get one dry metric tonne of caustic.

Exports to Canada, the US’s second-largest customer, were down 38%, with 78,396 lmt fewer shipped during the first four months of the year. Venezuela was also down, by 39%, but lower volumes mean it is off only 18,000 lmt for the year.

Mexico, at No 3, is also down by 26% for the year. Shipments to Chile, Colombia and Honduras were up.

Imports, meanwhile, while only about a third of export volumes, are up 33% so far this year with significant additional volumes coming from Taiwan and Japan and lower volumes from Canada and China, according to the ITC data.  Volumes from Germany, France, Qatar and Belgium are also up.

Major US caustic soda producers include Axiall, Dow Chemical, Formosa Plastics, Occidental Chemical, Olin Corp., Oxy Vinyls, Shintech and Westlake Chemical.   

Caustic soda trade

US caustic soda

April ‘14

April ‘13

March ‘14

YTD ‘14

YTD ‘13

   change

Total exports

269,602

400,827

477,341

1,358,171

1,536,215

-12%

 

US caustic soda

April ‘14

April ‘13

March ‘14

YTD ‘14

YTD ‘13

   change

Total imports

128,430

91,797

87,244

447,511

337,051

+33%

Source: US International Trade Commission

By Bill Bowen