The ICIS Polyols reports are published weekly in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. This independent and unbiased pricing information covers a variety of grades including slabstock, high resilience, conventional and foam depending on the region.
Our locally-based network of reporters provide details of the factors affecting price movements. Commentary includes overviews, economic news, graphs, feedstock updates, demand and supply issues. This market intelligence will give you the confidence to make informed business decisions.
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Polyols: Market overview
Updated to Q3 2018
Supply will likely increase as China-origin cargoes will become more readily available because of an expected drop in domestic feedstock propylene oxide (PO) prices. South Korean supply may also increase as local producers will likely ramp up their run rates with the start up of S-Oil’s PO plant expected in the third quarter.
Demand is expected to improve slightly with the onset of the traditional peak demand season in August/September. The recent declines in the prices of toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) may also induce downstream foam makers to ramp up their plant output. TDI and polyols are the two main feedstock used in foam production.
There could be a boost to Europe polyols demand eventually after lengthier toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) conditions in June. This is as TDI and polyols make flex foam together so trends can be transferrable between the markets. Higher consumption for polyols may tighten the market in the future.
Margin concerns will continue being a dominant topic raised by European polyols producers. The lengthier toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) conditions and price decreases in June could eventually provide a boost to polyols demand. As both products combine to make flex foam tight TDI supply resulted in lower demand for polyols in quarter one and two.
Flexible polyether polyols have been largely on the sidelines but the Middle East market is about to enter what could be a strong demand season in quarter three. Flex foam production in the region has been depressed by high prices of toluene di-isocyanate (TDI).
Demand could be slow at current elevated levels with producers having little leeway to increase prices. Rigid polyols is also expected to be stable, with very little upside potential seen.
US polyol supply is structurally sufficient and no supply difficulties are anticipated during the third quarter. Tightness in feedstock propylene may create some slowdown in polyol production, although the main limit to polyol consumption is likely to remain availability of polyurethane co-feedstocks such as methyl di-p phenylene isocyanate (MDI) and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI).
US polyol demand is expected to remain steady over the third quarter. The high season for the construction will continue to support polyol consumption while demand from the automotive sector is likely to remain slower relative to the previous year.
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Polyols are one of the components used to make polyurethanes, the other being an isocyanate. There are two main types of polyols: polyether polyols and polyester polyols.
Polyether polyols are the most widely used with the main applications being rigid and flexible polyurethane foams. Rigid foams are used mainly in insulation, refrigeration, packaging and construction while flexible foams have applications such as upholstery, mattresses and seats. Polyols can also be used in elastomers, adhesives, coatings and fibres.
Polyester polyols compete with polyether polyols but may be preferred in some rigid foam applications because of their low cost and improved flame retardant properties. They can also provide improved wear resistance, heat aging and chemical resistance in elastomers, coatings, sealants and adhesives.