AS RECENTLY AS 2020, China’s polypropylene (PP) exports totalled just 424,746 tonnes, causing what must have been barely a ripple of anxiety among the major Asian and Middle East exporters. But as the slide below shows, in 2021, China moved into the group of top exporters as its exports surged to 1.4m tonnes. This year, exports could be 1.7m tonnes or higher.
Asian Chemical Connections
RECOVERY? WHAT RECOVERY? Some market players are talking about a rebound in the Chinese economy, and, therefore, polyolefins demand, but the critically important spreads data continue to tell a different story. Nothing has changed from last week.
EFFICIENT SUPPLY CHAINS were something that we used to take for granted. They hummed away in the background, making petrochemicals just one of many globalised industries where products and services flowed almost seamlessly across borders. We didn’t have to think about supply chains because they worked so well.
Every tonne you don’t produce, when you correctly assess that the demand isn’t there in a particular market, will be important in preserving cashflow. Cashflow could once again be king, as it was just during the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis; and every tonne that you do produce, when you accurately assess that demand is there will, of course, support your revenues.
China’s polyethylene (PE) demand in 2022 could fall by 3% over last year. Net imports may be as much as 3.9m tonnes lower
US PE exports could be restricted in 2022 by local logistics challenges as China’s imports decline as its economy suffers a recession. The centre of attention for Asian and Middle exporters may therefore be Europe.
EUROPE’S NET HDPE imports could be as high as 4.1m tonnes in 2022 versus last year’s 1.1m tonnes.
I AM JUST about clinging to a base case of positive China polyethylene (PE) demand growth in 2022 because China has a great track record of turning its economy around after short periods of weaker growth. But this time could be different.
IT WILL NOT be easy to estimate what could be higher-than-expected levels of European petrochemicals imports during the rest of 2022. But in the context of a China that might even be in recession, the extra effort necessary to figure calculate shifts in European trade flows is very, very worthwhile.
THE HEADLINE IN the above slide has always been the case. But why it was forgotten could be because many of us spent most, if not all, of our professional careers in the benign period between the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the pivot in the US approach to China, which happened some four years ago.