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Chemicals and the Economy

Propylene price collapse highlights New Normal world

Everyone wants to assume that markets will soon be back to “normal”.  Consensus thinking now accepts that China will be a bit slower than before – but it argues that 6.5% GDP growth is still pretty good, even if it isn’t double digit.  And it suggests that persistence, and “staying the course” is vital for […]

BASF warns on outlook; Dow warns on China, ethylene cycle

BASF and Dow Chemical both warned on the outlook when presenting their H1 results last week: BASF CEO Kurt Bock warned, “We have for second quarter in the row in chemicals no growth worth mentioning . . . that is not a gratifying development.  We have the impression that there is little growth dynamic at the moment and our customers remain extremely cautious […]

Shell CEO says Europe needs to leverage chemicals clusters

There are 2 ways to improve operating rates in an industry.  One is to increase volumes, the other is to reduce capacity.   The latest APPE data covering H1 2014 for European olefin capacity highlights how the European petrochemical industry has successfully used both mechanisms over the past year to improve its position: Ethylene volume increased to 9.8MT, versus […]

US ethylene outages boost European and Asian PE producers

Polymer traders must be already counting their end-of-year bonuses, as the value of the US$ rises whilst crude oil prices weaken.  The biggest bonuses will likely go to polyethylene (PE) traders competing with US producers. The reason is that US ethylene spot prices are currently at record levels.  An astonishing 10% of US ethylene capacity has been out […]

EU cracker operating rates remain near record lows

An ageing population and record annual levels of oil prices create massive headwinds for Europe’s petrochemical producers.  One means demand growth is much reduced from the SuperCycle.  The other means these lower volumes cost more to produce. What a pity, you might say, that the industry is not part of the financial sector.  Then it […]

US shale gas expansions highlight lack of demand

One good thing may come out of the current excitement over the US ethylene expansions being discussed on the basis of shale gas developments. Boards may decide to look at seriously at the way yesterday’s ‘demographic dividend’ has now become today’s ‘demographic deficit’.  That would be a major step forward for the US and the […]

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