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Chemicals news

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

APIC '24: PODCAST: Weak demand persists for Asia propylene, downstream PO

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's propylene market will continue to see weak demand, although potential curbs in plant run rates in China amid weak margins could lend market support. Downstream, China’s propylene oxide (PO) import demand may continue to be adversely impacted by domestic start-up capacities, while demand in the main downstream polyols sector is unlikely to recover in the second quarter. South Korea June-loading propylene volumes likely to increase month on month Domestic Chinese PO start-ups to keep domestic supply lengthy, hampering import demand Global PO supply ex-China remains tight; downstream polyols likely muted in Q2 In this chemical podcast, ICIS editors Julia Tan and Shannen Ng discuss trends in the Asian propylene and PO markets. (This podcast first ran on 9 May.) Visit ICIS during APIC ’24 on 30-31 May at Booth 13, Grand Ballroom Foyer of the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in South Korea. Book a meeting with ICIS here.

27-May-2024

LOGISTICS: Container rates surge, chem tanker rates ease; Canada rail strike unlikely before July

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Rates for shipping containers continued to surge, liquid chemical tanker rates were flat to softer, and a possible freight rail strike in Canada is unlikely before mid-July, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES The global average for shipping containers has surged past the level seen in late January because of unseasonal increases in demand for ocean freight ex-Asia, as shown in the following chart. Rates are being pressured higher because of possible start of a restocking cycle in Europe and as US importers pull forward some peak-season demand on concerns of pending labor issues or additional Red Sea disruptions later in the year, according to Judah Levine, head of research at online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos. Rates for containers ex-Asia to both US coasts and to Europe are also nearing multimonth highs, as shown in the following chart. Drewry expects the spike in spot freight rates to lessen in the next few months. But Levine pointed to general rate increase (GRI) announcements for June, which he said indicate that carriers are not expecting demand to ease or conditions to improve in the short term. CMA CGM is setting Asia – north Europe rates at $6,000/FEU (40-foot equivalent unit) starting 1 June, and Hapag-Lloyd has announced an Asia – North America Peak Season Surcharge of $600/FEU to start June that will climb to $2,000/FEU mid-month. Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. LIQUID CHEM TANKER RATES Rates for liquid chemical tankers ex-US Gulf were flat to lower this week. US chemical tanker freight rates assessed by ICIS were mostly steady to lower as rates fell from the US Gulf (USG) to both Asia and India while also edging lower from the USG to Rotterdam. However, were unchanged from the USG to Caribbean and South America. Overall, the market was subdued entering the long holiday weekend. From the USG to Asia, this market has remained overall soft despite a few larger monoethylene glycol (MEG) parcels being seen in the market. From the USG to Rotterdam, it has remained quiet again this week, with available space for part cargo still open amid a lack of inquiries or interest from charterers. CANADA FREIGHT RAIL LABOR ISSUES A possible freight rail strike in Canada is not likely to begin before mid-July, according to rail carrier Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). The ongoing uncertainties over the looming strike make it hard for Canadian chemical, fertilizer and other industrial producers, in particular exporters, to prepare for a work stoppage. After about 9,300 unionized conductors, train operators and engineers at freight rail carriers CPKC and Canadian National (CN) earlier this month voted for a strike as early as 22 May. Canada’s federal labor minister referred the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a quasi-judicial tribunal charged with keeping industrial peace in Canada. PORT OF BALTIMORE The full reopening of the Port of Baltimore is closer after the Key Bridge Response Unified Command (UC) refloated the container ship Dali on Monday morning and moved it away from the scene of the collision. The Dali struck the Francis Scott Key bridge on 26 March, causing its collapse, and essentially closing the port. The closing of the port did not have a significant impact on the chemicals industry as chemicals make up only about 4% of total tonnage that moves through the port, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked southbound vessels ready for transit fell this week for traffic in both directions, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times a week ago were 3.6 days for northbound vessels and 13.9 days for southbound vessels. With additional reporting by Kevin Callahan and Stefan Baumgarten

24-May-2024

ICIS Economic Summary: Confidence rises on ‘soft or no landing’ scenario for US economy

NEW YORK (ICIS)–Economists are growing ever more confident on a soft landing for the US as they continue to ratchet up growth forecasts – now to the point where it’s hardly a landing at all. After all, consensus estimates for 2024 GDP growth at 2.4% are nearly on par with the 2.5% gain seen in 2023. ICIS likewise forecasts US GDP growth of 2.4% for 2024. On a quarterly trajectory, growth is expected to bottom out in Q3 at 1.3%. Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis, ICIS forecast Softer consumer price index (CPI) inflation data, weak retail sales and a Services PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index) moving into contraction have renewed hopes of rate cuts by the Federal Reserve – the consensus now being two cuts this year, starting in September. The core CPI coming in weaker than expected at 3.6% for April versus 3.8% in both March and February kicked off the latest bout of optimism, quickly sending 10-year Treasury yields down below 4.5%. Retail sales in April were flat from March and up 3.0% year on year – well below expectations and down from a 0.6% monthly gain in March. This suggests consumer spending is slowing in the face of slower job and income gains, and lingering inflation. Source: ICIS forecasts Notable year-on-year gains were in ecommerce (+7.5%), miscellaneous store retailers (+8.8%) and restaurants and bars (+5.5%), while declining categories were led by furniture and home furnishings (-8.4%), sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and books (-4.7%) and building materials and garden equipment (-1.0%). This highlights weakness in consumer discretionary purchases – a key point cited by big box retailer Target in its Q1 results. Services inflation has been the sticking point, but relief may be ahead. The ISM US Services PMI in April dipped into contraction (below 50) for the first time in 16 months, dropping to 49.4 from 51.4 in March. Meanwhile, the ISM US Manufacturing PMI also dipped into contraction, with a reading of 49.2 in April after expanding in March for the first time in 17 months to 50.3. After a long period of industrial recession, there are green shoots of a manufacturing revival, but the road ahead looks bumpy. Chemical companies posted somewhat better-than-expected Q1 earnings and guided to a seasonally stronger Q2 and a gradual recovery for the rest of the year, with growth and resilience in the Americas, stabilization in Europe and slow recovery in China. However, weakness in US housing and durables continues. Rate cuts could jump-start demand in both as higher sales of new and existing homes in turn spurs spending on durables such as furniture, carpets, consumer electronics and appliances. So far, many people seeking to move are simply locked into their homes because of low-rate mortgages secured or refinanced years ago. Buying another home would essentially double their financing costs. US housing starts jumped 5.7% in April to a 1.36 million unit pace, with gains in the multi-family segment. In the single-family segment, starts eased 0.4% to a 1.03 million unit pace. April starts were off 0.6% year on year. ICIS projects housing starts to rise slightly from 1.42 million in 2023 to 1.45 million in 2024. Meanwhile, light vehicle sales rose 1.1% to a 15.74 million unit pace in April and were up 0.4% year on year. ICIS projects a slight gain in light vehicle sales, from 15.5 million units in 2023 to 15.8 million in 2024. The ICIS US Leading Business Barometer (LBB), a key forward-looking indicator for the US business cycle, ticked up 0.1% in April – the second gain in the past three months following a 21-month stretch of declines. This appears to be signaling improving conditions in manufacturing and some transport industries. The greatest risk to the improving economic outlook is an external supply shock. With heightened geopolitical tensions around the world and an increasing trend towards protectionism in markets, this bears watching closely.

24-May-2024

Canada freight rail strike unlikely to begin before mid-July, rail carrier says

TORONTO (ICIS)–A possible freight rail strike in Canada is not likely to begin before mid-July, according to rail carrier Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). The ongoing uncertainties over the looming strike make it hard for Canadian chemical, fertilizer and other industrial producers, in particular exporters, to prepare for a work stoppage. After about 9,300 unionized conductors, train operators and engineers at freight rail carriers CPKC and Canadian National (CN) earlier this month voted for a strike as early as 22 May, Canada’s federal labor minister referred the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a quasi-judicial tribunal charged with keeping industrial peace in Canada. The minister wants the CIRB to investigate if disruptions to the supply of certain products (heavy fuel, propane, food, chlorine and other water treatment chemicals) could pose safety and health issues. A legal strike or lockout cannot occur until the CIRB makes a decision. In a statement, CPKC said that while it remains unclear how long it will take for the CIRB to issue a decision, “based on precedent, it is unlikely the parties will be in a position to initiate a legal strike or lockout before mid-July or later”. Labor union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) said that it would have to give 72-hour notice before starting a strike, meaning that the earliest date for a strike to begin is at least 72 hours after the CIRB makes its decision. After TCRC and the rail carriers made no progress in the latest collective bargaining talks ended 21 May, the parties are scheduled to meet again next week to continue negotiations with the assistance of federal mediators. IMPACTS ON CHEMICALS AND FERTILIZERS Freight rail work stoppages can quickly affect logistics in the chemical, fertilizer and other industries, and a simultaneous stoppage at CPKC and CN, which are Canada’s biggest rail carriers by far, would magnify impacts. The uncertainties about the exact timing of strike actions has already created difficulties in planning for sulfur importers and exporters in North America. “We are just waiting to see what will happen. We did quite a bit of sulfur business before the situation about the strike happened, but it is very difficult to know what to do next”, a source at a major exporter of sulfur told ICIS earlier this week. In the fertilizer industry, about 75% of all fertilizer produced and used in Canada is moved by rail and the industry depends on rail to move product across the country and into international markets. In the chemical industry, chemical producers rely on rail to ship more than 70% of their products, with some exclusively using rail. In the run-up to potential strikes, producers need to prepare, longer strikes can force them to curtail production or shut down plants, and after a strike ends it can take weeks for normal operations to resume. Canada freight rail traffic, ended 18 May: Source: Association of American Railroads With additional reporting by Julia MeehanPlease also visit Logistics: Impact on chemicals and energy Thumbnail photo source: Canadian Pacific Kansas City

24-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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