China’s crackers are on track. Is this bad news?

Aromatics, China, Olefins, Polyolefins, Projects, Styrenics

The consultants, traders and producers I spoke to last week insist that the current wave of new Chinese ethylene capacity due on stream in the current Five-Year Plan (2006-10), Download file
is more or less on track to be completed on schedule. Also see on these slides the ICIS insight Asia list of crackers after 2010 and the major PE and PP projects.
Unlike the Middle East, where project delays can run into several years, the Chinese have abundant manpower, engineering resources and cash to keep to their petrochemical time table.
There has been a lot of optimism from western CEOs recently, most notably Jeff Lipton of Nova Chemicals, over how delays to Middle East projects could extend the cycle.
But what will be the impact of timely start-ups in China? To what extent will these commissionings further erode the imports that have buoyed exporters for so long?
Sinopec and PetroChina is, apparently, discussing with the government over the next wave of crackers due on stream after 2010. Announcements are expected within the next 12 months.
On paper, the high density polyethylene deficit is due to remain at 2.5m tonnes up until 2012 with the polypropylene shortfall set to rise to 3.5m tonnes by 2011 from the current 2-3m tonnes/year. Will this prompt more investment by China or will the Chinese decide to let the Middle East meet the deficits? The Middle East is no longer just a PE player as the switch to mixed-feed crackers and the increasing use of the PDH process raises PP output.
What could this mean for global balances? Answers, please – and perhaps we can generate the world’s first user-generated consultants report. All hail to Web 2.0….

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