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Chemicals news

Brazil’s chemicals importers mobilize against tariffs hike proposed by producers

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s importers of chemicals are lobbying the cabinet not to implement the hikes to import tariffs proposed by the country’s producers, represented by trade group Abiquim. Brazil’s Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex), a body under the government’s umbrella, concluded on 30 April a public consultation about import tariffs on chemicals. In it, Abiquim presented more than 60 proposals to hike import tariffs, while individual companies presented dozens more. In total, the proposals contemplate hikes in import tariffs in more than 100 products, most of them to be raised from 12.6% to 20%. Some proposals, however, aim to raise some import tariffs from 9% to 35%. A decision by Camex is expected in coming weeks. IMPORTERS MOBILIZEA key actor lobbying against the tariff hikes is Brazil’s plastics transformers trade group Abiplast, who benefit from imports into the country. Abiquim often describes those imports as coming into Brazil at “depredatory prices” which are putting some national production chains at risk due to unfair competition. China’s overcapacities continue casting a shadow in the global chemical industry, and Latin America’s historical trade deficit in the sector makes the region the perfect ground for Chinese producers to send their product, at times below costs of production. On the other hand, Abiplast and consumer groups have said a hike in import tariffs would only increase prices for consumers and industrial players alike and would only benefit Brazil’s chemicals producers. “There should be no increase in import tariffs as this is not a viable solution at this moment, nor at any time in the future. An increase would result in direct increases in prices in the Brazilian market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson for the trade group. Earlier in May, sources in Brazil’s chemicals sector said to ICIS it would be unwise to hike import tariffs right now, as the country reels from severe flooding in Rio Grande do Sul, which has a strong plastics sector, and when more imports may be needed. The floods have brought the state’s industrial fabric to a standstill, although the petrochemicals hub of Triunfo, near Porto Alegre, restarted in mid-May albeit at a slow pace as infrastructure in the state is still heavily disrupted. Abiquim, however, remains unrelentless in its request for fast action, arguing that the restart at Triunfo, with Brazil’s polymers major Braskem leading the way, will be enough to guarantee supply, without the need for more imports. Braskem has a commanding voice in Abiquim. “We don’t agree [with any pause in the hike, if finally approved, because of the floods’ effect]. Braskem resumed operations last week and, furthermore, the high level of predatory imports [in past months] mean that resin producing companies had sufficient stocks to supply the market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson at the trade group. Abiquim is hopeful it will gain the day. His lobbying to the government has gone as high as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with whom the trade group and a few chemicals producers met last week in Brasilia to make their case for the import tariffs hike. Lula’s center-left cabinet has been since the start more friendly towards chemicals producers than his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who favored a more free-market line. In 2023, the cabinet hiked import tariffs for several polymers twice, and reintroduced a tax break for chemicals called REIQ. Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) main constituency is industrial workers, to whom the President promised during the electoral campaign to create more and better paid industrial jobs. Propping up domestic chemicals production would fall within that line of action. However, after Lula’s meeting with Abiquim, the backlash followed. According to a report by Brazilian daily Valor, Abiplast and 15 other trade groups have requested their own meeting with the President, hoping to stop the proposed increases in import tariffs. Among others, the groups opposing the hike include those representing sectors such as personal care, cleaning products, rubber articles, non-woven fabrics, paints, mattresses, toys, electronics, pharmaceutical products, food, polyolefin fibers, fabrics and clothing, footwear and civil construction. The groups said they were aiming to show to the President the “importance of tariff balance in maintaining industrial activities” in Brazil. BIG (AND CLOSED) CHEMICALS SECTORBrazil’s chemicals demand has always surpassed domestic supply, and around half of the country’s needs are covered by imports. That has been the case in the past few years. What has made the past year extraordinary is China dumping its product in Latin America, depressing prices – and margins for local producers. The fact that a 215-million market such as Brazil has not developed a bigger chemicals industry is surprising. Moreover, the country produces mostly commodity chemicals, which are to suffer from global downturns more than the higher-margin specialized grades. A source at Brazil’s chemicals industry, who deals with Braskem on a regular basis, was not impressed with Abiquim or Braskem’s strong stance in favor of higher tariffs. The source said it preferred to remain anonymous because “creating animosity by going against” the company’s position could put its business relationship at risk. “This [request for higher tariffs] is the cry of business mediocrity, which sees import restrictions as the solution to its productivity and technology problems. A country must not be built on protectionism but on investment in technology, productive capacity, creativity and scale,” said the source. “Brazil's political class has never prioritized competition as a source of development. Businessmen want to be alone in their businesses and the Federal Government wants to keep only Petrobras [in the crude oil sector] as a form of political financing.” Petrobras is the state-owned energy major, which holds a commanding position in the market despite other foreign players having some licenses to explore for and produce crude oil. The source added that when import tariffs are hiked generally, for all foreign potential exporters to Brazil, that is very different to potential anti-dumping duties (ADDs) imposed against a certain country – in this case, potentially China. “If the request was about ADDs on China’s product, this would be reasonable. But Abiquim and Braskem's request for hikes in import tariffs will affect all imports and this is not correct … We need more competition, not less. With more competition, some companies would have to close their doors indeed," it said. “Other companies, however, those which are more efficient, intelligent and audacious, would grow. Competition is always good and bringing foreign companies to compete in the local market would be interesting. Whenever and invariably private companies need the government to survive, there is a decrease in productivity and investments in new technologies.” However, the government’s ears are so open to chemicals producers’ demands that, on top of two import tariffs hikes in 2023 and the reintroduction of REIQ, earlier this year the cabinet announced the imposition of ADDs on US’ polypropylene (PP). The measure was taking even though PP imports into Brazil only represented 5% of the total in 2023 – 26,000 tonnes out of nearly 510,000 tonnes. Braskem is Brazil’s sole producer of PP as well as polyethylene (PE), the two mostly widely used polymers. A second source in the Brazilian chemicals distribution sector, said that the import tariff could benefits all parts of the chain – as well as producers, distributors and transformers, for instance – but only if all players rise prices in line with the increase in the import tariffs. “If the tariffs are finally hiked, it could represent a problem for us at first if Braskem lowers its prices, for instance – my product acquired pre-import tariff hike would be more expensive and I would have difficulty placing it in the market,” said the distribution source. “If Braskem does not lower its prices immediately, I would be able to maintain my prices. But if prices drop, I would be facing higher costs and lower selling prices: my margins would be greatly squeezed.” Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional reporting by Bruno Menini

28-May-2024

Midstream consolidation continues as US Energy Transfer makes $3.25 billion deal

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Energy Transfer plans to acquire WTG Midstream for $3.25 billion, the latest deal in an ongoing consolidation of the industry that provides feedstocks to chemical plants. Energy Transfer is acquiring WTG from affiliates of Stonepeak, the Davis Estate and Diamondback Energy, it said on Tuesday. The deal should close in Q3 2024. The deal includes eight natural gas processing plants that have a total capacity of 1.3 billion cubic feet/day. Two additional plants are under construction that will add another 400 million cubic feet/day of capacity, with the first starting up in Q3 2024 and the second in Q3 2025. Natural gas processing plants extract ethane and other natural gas liquids (NGLs) from raw gas produced from oil and gas wells. The NGLs are then shipped to fractionators which extract the individual products. Ethane and other NGLs are the main feedstock that US crackers use to make ethylene. The deal also includes a 20% stake in the Belvieu Alternative Natural Gas Liquid (BANGL) pipeline. The BANGL will stretch for 425 miles (683 km) and will have an initial capacity of 125,000 barrels/day, expandable to more than 300,000 barrels/day. It will connect the Permian basin to the fractionation hub in Sweeny, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. The pipeline could be completed in H1 2025. Other partners in the pipeline include MPLX and Rattler Midstream, a company formed by Diamondback Energy. SURGE IN MIDSTREAM M&AEnergy Transfer's acquisition is the latest in a surge of deals in the midstream industry. The following lists some of the more recent mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Phillips 66 agreed to buy Pinnacle Midland Parent from Energy Spectrum Capital for $550 million ONEOK is buying NGL pipelines from Easton Energy for $280 million EQT is acquiring Equitrans Midstream in a deal that the Wall Street Journal valued at $5.5 billion Energy Transfer completed its $7.1 billion merger with Crestwood Equity Partners in November 2023 ONEOK completed its $18.8 billion acquisition of Magellan Midstream Partners in September 2023 Phillips 66 completed a deal for additional units of DCP Midstream, raising its stake to 86.8% The deals come amid a flurry of new projects being built by midstream companies, which includes processing plants, pipelines, fractionators and terminals. When completed, the infrastructure will provide feedstock to petrochemical plants in the US and the world. Thumbnail shows pipeline. Image by Global Warming Images/REX Shutterstock

28-May-2024

PODCAST: Distributors see improving demand, but geopolitics threatens recovery

BARCELONA (ICIS)–Chemical distributors are seeing signs of a sequential improvement in demand, but increasing geopolitical volatility threatens any recovery, according to the head of trade group Fecc. Sequential improvement in demand, destocking winds down Red Sea disruption highlights continuing fragility of supply chains Geopolitics creates growing instability and volatility Europe chemicals need political support Permitting needs to speed up to enable low carbon energy transfer South Korea chemicals under intense pressure to consolidate Click here to download the 2024 ICIS Top 100 Chemical Distributors. In this Think Tank podcast, Will Beacham interviews Dorothee Arns, Director General of Fecc (European Association of Chemical Distributors), ICIS Senior Consultant Asia John Richardson and Paul Hodges, chairman of New Normal Consulting. Editor’s note: This podcast is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the presenter and interviewees, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. ICIS is organising regular updates to help the industry understand current market trends. Register here . Read the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business. Read Paul Hodges and John Richardson's ICIS blogs.

28-May-2024

BLOG: Chemical prices start to slide in Asia and Europe as summer slowdown starts early

LONDON (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Chemicals & The Economy by Paul Hodges, which looks at how chemical prices are starting to slide in Asia and Europe Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. Paul Hodges is the chairman of consultants New Normal Consulting.

28-May-2024

PODCAST: Why you should enter the 2024 ICIS Innovation Awards

BARCELONA (ICIS)–Chemical companies can gain recognition as leaders in innovation, as well as evaluating their own new product pipeline by taking part in the ICIS Innovation Awards, according to last year’s winner. ICIS Chemical Business deputy editor Will Beacham interviews David Dupont, Arkema’s vice-president specialty polyamides. Click here to find out how to enter this year’s  ICIS Innovation Awards. Entry deadline Friday 7 June Editor’s note: This podcast is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the presenter and interviewees and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. ICIS is organising regular updates to help the industry understand current market trends. Register here Read the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business Read Paul Hodges and John Richardson's ICIS blogs

27-May-2024

Americas top stories: weekly summary

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 24 May. Canada freight rail strike unlikely to begin before mid-July, rail carrier says A possible freight rail strike in Canada is not likely to begin before mid-July, according to rail carrier Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). DuPont flags $60 million in dis-synergies from break-up, assures on PFAS liabilities DuPont expects about $60 million in dis-synergies from its break-up into three independent publicly traded companies, CEO Ed Breen and CFO Lori Koch told analysts in a conference call on Thursday. US tariff hikes on China EVs, batteries take effect 1 August Starting August, US tariffs on imports of electric vehicles (EVs) from China will quadruple to 100%, while those for battery materials will more than triple to 25%, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said. US DuPont to separate electronics and water businesses DuPont plans to separate its electronics and water businesses into two publicly traded companies, the US-based specialty chemicals producer said on Wednesday. Mexico’s Tamaulipas drought hits some chemicals producers as water supply halved A severe drought affecting Mexico’s sate of Tamaulipas has prompted an order to halve water supply to chemicals and other industrial companies, although some chemicals producers have said to ICIS they are operating normally. PPG to build new US paint plant, invest in existing two sites PPG plans to spend $300 million to build a new plant in the US and to make investments at existing sites in North America, the paints and coatings producer said on Tuesday. Brazil's Braskem restart at Triunfo to kick off petchem hub normalization Braskem has restarted operations at its Triunfo facility in the flood-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul, which will allow other players in the petrochemicals hub to start up their plants as many depend on input from the Brazilian polymers major to operate.

27-May-2024

Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 24 May. NEWS Brazil’s Triunfo petchems restart odd one out as wider industry still disrupted – consultant Most of Rio Grande do Sul’s industrial plants remain shut or operating at very low rates as the Brazilian state reels from the floods, with the restart at the Triunfo petrochemicals hub an exception rather than the norm, a chemicals consultant at MaxiQuim said to ICIS. Mexico’s Orbia/Vestolit's Altamira plant ceases operations due to water scarcity Orbia/Vestolit ceased operations at its Altamira, Tampico facilities in Mexico on 21 May due to water scarcity. The company operates there a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) facility with a production capacity of 690,000 tonnes/year. The company estimates it could resume activity on 19 June. SABIC declares force majeure at Tampico Mexico ABS plant SABIC Innovative Plastics Mexico (SABIC) declared force majeure at its Tampico, Mexico acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plant on 23 May. The products affected include CYCOLAC ABS.  This facility has a capacity of 30,000 tonnes. Mexico’s Q1 GDP grows 0.3%, economic activity remains healthy in MarchMexico’s GDP rose by 0.3% in Q1, an acceleration from Q4’s 0.1% quarterly growth, the country’s statistic office Inegi said on Thursday. Brazil’s antitrust authority paves way for Petrobras to shed refinery sales Brazilian state-owned energy major Petrobras has been allowed by the country’s antitrust authority CADE to backtrack on planned refinery sales. Argentina’s manufacturing down nearly 20% in March Argentina’s petrochemicals-intensive manufacturing output fell in March by 19.6% year on year, the country’s statistics office, Indec, said this week. Brazil’s Unigel creditors mull fertilizers divestment The debt restructuring agreement at Unigel, under which the Brazilian chemicals producer’s creditors are to take a 50% equity stake, could result in a divestment of the company's beleaguered fertilizers division. Brazil’s Unigel to give creditors 50% equity stake in debt restructuring Unigel has obtained the support of enough creditors for a debt restructuring plan although it comes at a price as they will be getting a 50% equity stake in the Brazilian chemical and fertilizer producer. Brazil's Braskem restart at Triunfo to kick off petchem hub normalization Braskem has restarted operations at its Triunfo facility in the flood-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul, which will allow other players in the petrochemicals hub to start up their plants as many depend on input from the Brazilian polymers major to operate. INEOS Styrolution declares force majeure at Altamira Mexico facility INEOS Styrolution declared force majeure at its facility in Altamira, Mexico, on 20 May. The products affected include Teluran ABS, Novodur High Heat ABS and Luran ASA. This facility has a capacity of 113,000 tonnes. Chile’s Q1 GDP up 2.3% on strong consumption, manufacturing up 1.1% The Chilean economy started 2024 on a strong footing with GDP growth in the first quarter at 2.3%, year on year, the country’s central bank said on Monday. Volkswagen, Stellantis idle car plants in Brazil, Argentina after floods Volkswagen (VW) idled its three plants in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo on Monday, as suppliers in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul are unable to produce any automotive parts, a spokesperson for the German automotive major told ICIS. PRICING LatAm PP international prices stable to up on higher Asian freights International polypropylene (PP) prices were assessed as steady to higher across Latin American countries due to the surge in freight rates from Asia to the region. LatAm PE domestic, international prices steady on sufficient supply, stable demand Domestic and international polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed unchanged this week across Latin American countries on the back of sufficient supply and stable demand.

27-May-2024

India to develop Iran’s Chabahar port; expand international trade

MUMBAI (ICIS)–India and Iran are currently charting plans to acquire equipment and machinery to enhance the capacity and increase vehicular movement at Chabahar port, after the two countries signed a 10-year deal to develop part of the Iranian port. State-owned Indian Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) and the Ports & Maritime Organisation (PMO) of Iran signed the agreement to develop and manage the Shahid-Behesti terminal at the Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran. “These efforts had been hampered in the past due to the US sanctions on Iran,” a source from India’s Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said, citing international sanctions imposed on the Middle Eastern country, which is suspected to be developing nuclear weapons. IPGL will invest around $120m in equipping the port, with India offering additional financing worth $250m for the development of mutually identified projects aimed at improving port infrastructure, the source said. Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman consists of the Shahid Beheshti port, which will be developed by India, and the Shahid Kalantri port. “The long-term contract will further strengthen ties between the two nations and highlights the importance of Chabahar as a gateway for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries,” the shipping ministry said in an official announcement on 13 May. “The Chabahar Port has easy access to India's west coast. The long-term contract will give a significant boost to economic activities and establish our growing role in developing global trade & commerce,” Indian shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal posted on social media platform X on 14 May. India imports methanol, bitumen, liquefied propane, inorganic/organic chemicals, among others from Iran; while it exports pharmaceuticals, rice, tea, sugar and fruits to the Middle Eastern country. The Chabahar project is part of the proposed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multi-modal transportation network of ship, rail and road route for moving goods between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. India and Iran had initially signed an agreement for the development of the port in 2003, but the project was stalled due to opposition from the US. The current deal replaces a 2016 agreement between the two countries that was being renewed periodically. IPGL, which took over operations at the Shahid Beheshti port in 2018, has handled more than 90,000 20-foot-equivalent units of container traffic and more than 8.4m tonnes of bulk and general cargo since then, the source from the shipping ministry said. The lack of a long-term agreement was, however, impacting investment by shippers and investors in the region. “The industry was initially uncomfortable about allowing its long-term supply chains to pass through Chabahar port as the Indian government did not have a long-term agreement with Iran for the port,” the official said. Negotiations for a long-term deal between the two countries had been stalled due to differences on several issues, including a disagreement on an international arbitration framework in case of disputes, he added. The Shahid Beheshti port is being developed in four phases; and on completion of all four phases, port capacity will be 82m tonnes/year, as per IPGL’s website. The first phase of the development was inaugurated in December 2017. Despite its potential, the Chabahar project could face hurdles due to the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, the government source said. US state department spokesman Vedant Patel on 14 May warned of possible sanctions against those engaging with the Iranian government. Focus article by Priya Jestin

27-May-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 24 May. Brenntag CEO says Europe must play to its strengths Europe’s chemical sector is seeing a wave of commodity production closures, which is likely to accelerate as the region is suffering from structurally higher energy costs and depressed margins since it lost access to cheap Russian gas. Europe epoxy sentiment stable, Asia imports may face EU antidumping claim Europe epoxy resins prices have been mainly agreed with rollovers for May so far, in spite of a drop in feedstock costs this month. Speculation is also growing over EU anti-dumping claims against Asian imports. Europe naphtha and gasoline prices firm on improved liquidity, summer optimism Liquidity in Europe's naphtha and gasoline markets improved in the week to 17 May as stable-to-soft prices encouraged buying appetite, just as the market is gearing up for an uptick in demand ahead of the summer holidays. Europe PE, PP contract prices down beyond monomer for May Europe’s polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) freely negotiated prices for May are down, with variance by grade

27-May-2024

APIC '24: PODCAST: Asia PVC shaped by ample supply, policy changes in India

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's polyvinyl chloride (PVC) markets are expected to see some uncertainty in the coming months, with factors like China’s domestic demand, the impact of India’s monsoon and some policy changes likely to shape the landscape. June offers from Asian producers awaited Healthy SE Asian Q1 GDP growth to support PVC demand Low domestic demand in China encourages exports, especially to India In this chemical podcast, ICIS editors Jonathan Chou, Damini Dabholkar and analyst Lina Xu discuss recent market conditions with an outlook ahead in Asia. (This podcast first ran on 8 May.) Visit us at Booth 13, Grand Ballroom Foyer, Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in South Korea. Book a meeting with ICIS here.

27-May-2024

2024 and beyond: global chemicals outlook

The global landscape for chemicals has changed significantly, with a lower demand growth expected to persist, however within these challenges and changes lies opportunity for those who adapt.

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