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Chemicals and the Economy

Refiners’ margins come under pressure

In another sign of the economy ‘bouncing along the bottom’, US drivers appear to have returned to the road in recent months. Latest figures from the US Highway Administration show a 0.1% rise in vehicle miles travelled during May, the second consecutive month of positive growth since 2007. But this is unlikely to provide much […]

Benzene on the floor

Benzene is one of the most widely used, and widely traded, chemicals. It is therefore an excellent leading indicator of chemical industry supply/demand balances, and profitability. • A year ago, the blog noted that benzene prices had “hit a ceiling”, suggesting that industry profitability was close to a peak. • Then in October, when they […]

Asian naphtha falls below $300/t

ICIS is reporting today that Shell sold open spec naphtha to Cargill at $267 CFR Japan, for the first half of January. Normally the naphtha: crude ratio is around 9.5: 1. But with January Brent at $66/bbl, the ratio is now just 4:1. The blog can safely say we have never seen it this low […]

Recession almost certainly now underway

Asian naphtha spreads versus crude oil have fallen to all-time lows. Dubai crude was reported at c$80/bbl last week, whilst naphtha was $30/bbl lower, at a price of only $50/bbl. This shows an extreme lack of demand for naphtha, and hence for petrochemicals. In turn, this is a leading indicator of economic downturn. ICIS news […]

Volt could change naphtha balances

A blog reader has kindly pointed out the potential impact of GM’s new Volt car on the chemical industry. The Volt will have an operating range of 40 miles (64km), when it becomes available in 2010. According to GM, it will enable 75% of America’s daily commuter journeys to take place without using gasoline. And […]

Shell, Saudi Aramco to build new $7bn US refinery

Shell and Saudi Aramco have now confirmed plans to spend $7bn to build what they term ‘the first new refinery in the U.S. in more than 30 years’. They will achieve this by adding 325,000 barrels per day (b/d) to their existing Port Arthur, Texas, facility, taking total capacity to 600,000 b/d. It is scheduled […]

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