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Chemicals and the Economy

US shale revolution puts squeeze on European chemicals groups

The Financial Times has carried an excellent analysis this week of the key shale gas issues facing the European chemical industry.  It includes comments from a number of CEOs, as well as from the blog.  Its key points are as follows: THE STRATEGIC DILEMMA “European petrochemical makers risk being squeezed between low-cost producers in the Middle East […]

Warning flags fly over Europe’s olefin business

2012 was another difficult year for the European olefin industry. As the chart above shows, based on official APPE data, total ethylene volume was just 18.9MT. This was only just above 2009’s 18.8MT. Before that, we have to go back to 1997 to find an equivalent annual volume. And then the industry was still growing […]

Europe’s olefin operating rates remain at recession levels

Europe’s political leaders were deadlocked last weekend over plans for the EU’s new Budget. A new north-south gap opened up, where the major contributors to the Budget (Germany, UK, Netherlands) demanded €30bn ($39bn) in cuts. This was, of course, badly received by those in the south (Italy, Spain, France) who would like more support. This […]

3 issues, and an overview, at EPCA

This year’s European Petrochemical Association in Berlin was notable for its realism. The blog gave an interview to ICIS news which was headlined ‘Major recession ahead, warns leading consultant’. This overview seemed to capture the overall mood of the event. 3 key issues were also the focus of intense discussion: US shale gas. Will all […]

Sinopec focuses on political and social targets

Sinopec is China’s main company in refining and chemical markets. Although it is listed on world stock markets, the government remains its largest shareholder with a 76% stake. As such, it follows government priorities rather than western commercial logic. The chart above, from the blog’s major new study of the company, highlights some of the […]

Petchem volumes slide in all 3 major regions

Volume is a key driver for chemical company profits. High volume means operating rates increase, reducing unit costs. Companies also gain more pricing power. But when volume is low, the reverse happens. Thus the above chart from leading analyst Paul Satchell of Collins Stewart is telling an important story. It shows: • Volumes were very […]

Time to check Downturn contingency plans

Two years ago, the blog began to survey global stock markets on what turned out to be the day they began their major rally. Its end-April launch of Downturn Alert may prove similarly fortuitous. Since then (shaded area), Brent crude oil is down 8%. Similarly naphtha is down 11%, benzene down 2%, HDPE 6% and […]

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