Benzene

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Rapidly changing market dynamics are a constant reality for buyers, sellers and traders of benzene who must closely track highly active markets in the US, Europe, Asia-Pacific and China. This high demand petrochemical is extracted from crude oil for industrial use, so markets also react quickly to even the smallest fluctuations in oil prices. To make solid and lucrative trades, multiple factors must be monitored constantly, so when opportunities occur, they are acted on straight away.

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Asia petchem markets await China's demand signals after holiday

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's petrochemical markets will closely watch China's demand signals after the Lunar New Year holiday amid ongoing concerns about the country’s economic health. Asia markets eye China's post-holiday demand signals China's economic health remains central concern Prices likely to rise amid supply constraints Markets in Asia took a breather in the week of 12-16 February, with Lunar New Year holidays in China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, while countries such as South Korea, Japan and Indonesia observed public holidays as well. Market participants are cautious about the post-holiday market; while some downstream buyers will restock after the holidays, there is concern that existing inventory held by domestic China producers and distributors will largely satisfy demand until early March. PRICES LIKELY TO RISE AMID SUPPLY CONSTRAINTSPetrochemical prices in Asia are expected to continue to increase in February, supported by capacity losses from outages and run-rate reductions, according to ICIS analysts. Among the 31 major petrochemical commodities covered by the ICIS Asia Price Forecast, average February prices for at least 22 of these commodities are anticipated to increase. Ethylene (C2), butadiene (BD) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) are expected to lead in terms of gains. In Asia’s C2 market, end-users who have yet to settle March arrival cargo are expected to hit the ground running once most of players return to the market this week. In the southeast Asia C2 market, demand enquiries were largely heard from Thailand last week, while other end-users in Indonesia have begun to look towards the April window for spot cargo. "The Asia C2 industry is likely to be characterised by tight supply in the weeks to come," said Paolo Scafetta, ICIS senior olefins analyst. "February should see about 7% of total monthly nameplate capacity lost due to downtime unless unplanned events cause further technical hiccups." The upstream naphtha market in Asia should be influenced by a few bearish factors, Scafetta added. These include the shift from naphtha to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an alternative cracking feedstock and an improvement in supply from March as naphtha cargoes are expected to increase as Middle East refineries return from their maintenance. Asia's naphtha market is likely to be plagued with volatility in the short term as tensions in the Red Sea will continue to disrupt supplies. In Asia’s propylene (C3) market, trade was largely subdued during the Lunar New Year break but picked up towards the close of the week with most market players, except China, returning from their holiday. Talks and discussions in Taiwan commenced at the end of the week after the holidays ended. However, the post-holiday buying sentiment weakened on the back of ample supply, leading sellers to progressively lower their offers and selling indications. With buyers in China largely away from the market, overall business activity during the week was muted. In southeast Asia, while demand was also heard in Malaysia and Indonesia, most buyers continued to hold back from purchases on the expectation that supply tightness might result in an easing in offers down the road. In Asia’s benzene market, post-holiday restocking is expected to pick up in the second half of February amid strong competition for April and May cargoes from global players. February and March benzene cargoes have been already sold out and April cargoes are in strong demand. Benzene buyers based in both Asia and the West had actively sought procurement since end-January, for pre-holiday and pre-summer stocking up respectively. Asia's acetone market looks poised to maintain its strength. This is due to the high prices of benzene, reduced production leading to tighter supply, and a resurgence in trading flows between Asia and the West. A significant increase in demand for Asia acetone from the US market is bolstering this trend. Limited supply in the US, a result of low phenol production and ongoing allocations, is driving this demand. Meanwhile, supply within Asia is also constrained as phenol/acetone producers scale back production in response to unprofitable margins and decreased demand for phenol in China. In the xylene markets, further support in the market will be dependent on downstream sectors after the Lunar New Year holidays, with eyes firmly on China. For paraxylene (PX), there remains optimism for gasoline-blending demand heading into the second quarter, with positive arbitrage window economics for exports to the West. Firm upstream naphtha prices have also provided some support for PX. Several market participants noted there had been pre-buying of mixed xylenes (MX) and toluene by gasoline blenders to the US. Demand and price developments in the downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyester sectors will help provide clarity about whether high PX costs can be absorbed down the chain. Asia's butyl acetate (butac) and ethyl acetate (etac) markets are poised to stay afloat on anticipated post-holiday demand, albeit at a gradual pace. Sellers of butac in both China and the region largely maintained their spot offers for March loading prior to the Lunar New Year holiday. Spot butac prices were on a downtrend in the early part of the fourth quarter of 2023 and have climbed since December, in part driven by cost pressures upstream as suppliers worked towards mitigating compressed margins. Asia’s methylene chloride (MEC) market might be bullish after the Lunar New Year holiday, as rising demand is likely to shift the market to a more balanced state. Most buyers were in a wait-and-see mode, monitoring prices and observing what producers would offer after the Lunar New Year break, with market participants in southeast Asia eyeing a rebound in demand through Q2, around the Ramadan period. CHINA'S ECONOMIC HEALTH IN FOCUS ICIS analysts expect most of China's end-use consumption, including in industries such as agriculture and home appliances, to recover from March. The China government's Two Sessions policy meetings, widely seen as the most important political meeting of the year for the country, will be held on 4-11 March. ICIS analysts expect another series of policies to be introduced to stimulate economic growth. Further market and infrastructure investment can boost petrochemicals demand. Latest official data from China is pointing to some recovery from domestic tourism trips and revenues. Domestic tourism trips and revenues during the Lunar New Year holidays in China jumped by 34.3% and 47.3% year on year respectively, with their levels at 19.0% and 7.7% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019, data from the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) shows. "Most official and private media channels have been reporting strong (or even exceptionally strong) Lunar New Year holiday consumption data, and markets risk getting caught up in the euphoria of the moment, under the supposition that China’s economy is suddenly bottoming out, driven by the Chinese people’s hidden passion for spending," research analysts from Japan's Nomura Global Markets Research said in a note. "Although we do see some strength in the data, we urge market participants to exercise caution," it said, adding that China's property sector continued its downward spiral, right before the Lunar New Year holiday, and there was no sign of a recovery during the holiday. "Despite the positive [Lunar New Year] data, we maintain our view that the ongoing economic dip is likely to worsen into the spring," Nomura said. With additional reporting by Josh Quah, Julia Tan, Seng Li Peng, Angeline Soh, Helen Lee, Keven Zhang, Melanie Wee and Samuel Wong Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail photo: Lunar New Year lanterns in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, on 1 February 2021. Asia will closely watch China's demand signals after the Lunar New Year holiday amid concerns about the country’s economic health. (Source: Xinhua/Shutterstock)

19-Feb-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 9 February 2024. India methanol gains on lower Iran volumes amid plant outagesBy Keven Zhang 09-Feb-24 14:38 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Indian methanol spot market continued to be driven by supply outages in Iran, with a trade concluded higher than the previous week. INSIGHT: Asia benzene remains profitable supported by demand in 2024 By Jenny Yi 08-Feb-24 22:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia benzene supply growth will moderate in 2024 compared with last year, which saw the the peak of the latest capacity expansion cycle. The downstream market still maintains rapid capacity growth, however, which exceeds the supply growth rate of benzene. Asia adipic acid struggles to keep up with cost pressure ahead of holidays By Josh Quah 08-Feb-24 13:44 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Adipic acid (ADA) prices in Asia have been on a general upward trend since around mid-December 2023 for China-origin cargoes. INSIGHT: Asia ABS supply length will intensify amid China expansions By May Hu 08-Feb-24 10:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) capacity growth in Asia peaked in 2023 and will be sustained in 2024 on massive new capacities coming on stream in China. China petrochemical demand may stay muted post-holiday By Yvonne Shi 07-Feb-24 15:09 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Low market confidence has kept petrochemical restocking in China tepid before the Lunar New Year holiday, with players refraining from building up inventory given uncertain demand recovery in March. China Jan petrochemical markets gain on restocking; Feb holidays to hit demand By Yvonne Shi 06-Feb-24 14:58 SINGAPORE(ICIS)–China’s domestic petrochemical markets gained in end-January on the back firm crude prices and some restocking ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, with demand in February likely to weaken. Asia titanium dioxide spot market may be fuelled by bullish sentiment By Joson Ng 05-Feb-24 16:56 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The titanium dioxide (TiO2) spot market in Asia is likely to see supply factors driving the market in February. India hikes infrastructure capex for fourth year; Rs11.1tr set for 2024-25 By Priya Jestin 05-Feb-24 14:49 MUMBAI (ICIS)–India’s government has announced plans to increase its capital expenditure on infrastructure projects to rupees (Rs) 11.1trn ($134bn) in its interim budget for 2024-2025, up 11% from the previous fiscal year, boosting the funds available for the sector for the fourth consecutive year.

13-Feb-2024

Mitsubishi may make FID on new US MMA plant in Q2

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Mitsubishi Chemical America could make a final investment decision (FID) on a new methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant in the US in the second quarter, with start-up possible in 2028, the company said on Thursday. The plant, called the MCA Geismar Site, is proposed to be built in Ascension Parish in Louisiana state, and it will produce 350,000 tonnes/year using the company’s Alpha process technology. The site will also include a carbon monoxide (CO) plant, a methanol plant and a formalin plant. This will be the third plant that features the Alpha process, which uses ethylene, methanol and CO to make MMA. If Mitsubishi Chemical decides to move forward on the project, then construction could start in the second half of 2024, the company said in a statement. It should end in 2028, with operations starting later that year. The project already has achieved some regulatory milestones. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) had scheduled a public hearing for the project for 1 February. In 2023, the regulator made a preliminary determination to approve construction of the project. Mitsubishi Chemical expects the department to approve its air permit application in March or April 2024, it said in a statement. ETHYLENE-BASED MMA MAY UPEND MARKETMMA is typically made from acetone, which is a co-product of phenol production. Mitsubishi as well as Roehm are building MMA plants that use ethylene and methanol instead of acetone as a feedstock. Roehm calls its process technology LiMA, and it will be used in a 250,000 tonne/year plant it is building on the Gulf Coast. If these new technologies proliferate, then they would create a new end-use for ethylene, and they could slow down the growth for a traditional outlet for acetone. Not only could that have ramifications for acetone, but the new MMA technologies could affect phenol markets. Phenol and acetone are co-products and are ultimately derived from benzene and propylene via cumene. Thumbnail shows an item made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is made from MMA. Image by Shutterstock.

08-Feb-2024

Mitsubishi's proposed US MMA plant reaches regulatory milestones

HOUSTON (ICIS)–A proposed methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant that Mitsubishi Chemical America plans to build in Louisiana has reached a couple of regulatory milestones, although the company has yet to announce a final investment decision (FID). The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) scheduled a public hearing for the project for 1 February. Earlier in 2023, the regulator made a preliminary determination to approve construction of the project. The plant, called the MCA Geismar Site, is proposed to be built in Ascension parish, and it will produce 350,000 tonnes/year using the company's Alpha process technology. The site will also include a carbon monoxide (CO) plant, a methanol plant and a formalin plant. This will be the third plant that features the Alpha process, which uses ethylene, methanol and CO to make MMA. ETHYLENE BASED MMA MAY UPEND MARKETMMA is typically made from acetone, which was a co-product of phenol production. Mitsubishi as well as Roehm are building MMA plants that use ethylene and methanol instead of acetone as a feedstock. Roehm calls its process technology LiMA, and it will be used in a 250,000 tonne/year plant it is building on the Gulf Coast. If these new technologies proliferate, then they would create a new end-use for ethylene, and they could slow down the growth for a traditional outlet for acetone. Not only could that have ramifications for acetone, but the new MMA technologies could also affect phenol markets. Phenol and acetone are both coproducts and are ultimately derived from benzene and propylene via cumene. Thumbnail shows polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is made with MMA. Image by Shutterstock. 

06-Feb-2024

PODCAST: Asia benzene lifted by higher oil prices, pre-holiday restocking

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's benzene prices trended upwards because of crude gains as well some pre-Lunar New Year restocking. Downstream styrene (SM) producers however, struggled with higher costs and low demand from sectors such as polystyrene (PS), expandable polystyrene (EPS) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS). In this chemical podcast, ICIS editors Angeline Soh and Luffy Wu discuss recent market conditions with an outlook ahead in Asia. Benzene Feb cargoes sold out from pre-LNY stocking up, US demand as plants shut from winter storm Demand for March cargoes buoyed; buyers beyond Asia worried about tightened supply with upcoming derivative additions in China Asian styrene market players struggling with high costs but low demand Regional styrene exporters eyeing long-haul opportunities to Europe

31-Jan-2024

INSIGHT: Pre-holiday Asia petrochemicals mixed on cost pressures, bleak demand outlook

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Petrochemical markets in Asia are showing a mixed trend ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, with some product prices rising on a combination of pre-holiday restocking and supply constraints despite general weakness in underlying demand. Red Sea crisis weighs on business decisions amid rising freight costs Pre-holiday restocking muted in most markets Demand recovery post holiday uncertain Prevailing concerns about the global economic outlook, compounded by rising freight costs and supply chain issues continue to weigh on sentiment. In China’s domestic market, pre-holiday restocking has been muted overall as downstream buyers fret over high prices of some products. The Lunar New Year, which falls on 10 February, is celebrated in most parts of northeast and southeast Asia. China will be on holiday for a full week on 10-17 February. COST PRESSURES DRIVE GAINS Some markets in Asia are experiencing an uptick in activity ahead of the holiday amid tight supply conditions. For ethyl acetate (etac), spot negotiations have surged along with market activity as end-users stock up on feedstock. The demand spike, particularly in northeast and southeast Asia, was triggered by concerns over limited vessel space and higher freight costs which were causing delays in cargo deliveries. “The tightness of vessel [availability] becomes a common problem for liquid chemicals at the moment,” said a regional-based market source. In the benzene market, buyers have been restocking throughout January, with a notable increase in demand compared with the previous year, ICIS analyst Jenny Yi said. Supply in Asia is expected to be stable amid limited planned turnarounds in the region in the first quarter, Yi said. In addition, the arbitrage window between Asia and the US has opened given reduced production in North America caused by prevailing frigid temperatures, she added. In the isocyanates market, demand is strong in India as downstream polyurethane (PU) producers are restocking for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI to gear up for peak production season in the first few months of the new year. Import prices are bolstered by tight northeast Asian supply, with major Chinese producers offline for turnarounds. However, post-Lunar New Year demand remains uncertain, particularly in China and southeast Asia, as downstream PU sector recovery is sluggish. For polyols, import prices in southeast Asia and India are rising, tracking upstream propylene oxide (PO) gains. India’s domestic and import prices for polyols are rising on a combination of strong demand and high freight costs. Southeast Asia's market, on the other hand, is quieter but prices were being supported by higher feedstock cost. Adjusting polyols prices to match upstream costs is challenging due to weak downstream demand. In the fatty alcohols market, Chinese buyers have secured their needs until March, leaving Indian buyers more active in the market. “We sell two or three months forward on a CIF [cost, insurance & freight] basis … and the sudden increase in ocean freight will definitely affect our margins,” an oleochemicals trader said. HIGH PRICES DAMPEN DEMAND; SUPPLY TIGHT FOR SOME MARKETS Post-Lunar New Year recovery in demand is uncertain, with little optimism for significant improvement. For methanol, domestic activity in China was tepid with downstream factories likely to shut weeks ahead of the holiday, while those seeking cargoes face higher prices given low availability of supply in the market. The country’s methanol imports in January plunged month on month with plants in the Middle East running at reduced rates during the month. In the plasticizers market, spot import prices in Asia were dragged down by upstream losses and weak buying momentum. Based on ICIS’ Plasticizers forecast, prices are expected to fall in February as the market activity slows down during the Lunar New Year holiday. For 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH), import prices in east Asia were stable amid limited discussions due to a lack of available spot material. Downstream diisononyl phthalate (DINP) spot market is having some support from limited supply of feedstock isononyl alcohol (INA). INA cargo movement from Europe to Asia is being affected by ongoing logistics issues in the Red Sea. WEAK DOWNSTREAM MARKETS TO PERSIST For monoethylene glycol (MEG), slowing textile demand ahead of the Lunar New Year could halt the market uptrend. “Limited restocking activities are seen as buyers and end-users prefer not building high stocks amid concerns on the demand recovery after the holiday. As you know, the global economic outlook seems not rosy,” a regional trader said. In the recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) and recycled polyethylene (R-PE) markets, demand for pellets has been tepid as downstream plants still working through backlogs from last year's purchases. The recycled polymers market has generally struggled throughout 2023, with trade impacted by poor economics. In the PE market, initial spot February import offers in southeast Asia were firmer this week as Middle East suppliers flagged reduced spot allocation and low stocks. Middle East offers to Vietnam – which will celebrate the Lunar New Year from 8-14 February – spiked due to reduced availability of spot export cargoes. The Red Sea crisis has also likely affected some shipments from Saudi Arabia, but this could not be confirmed with the producers. Supporting PE demand is downstream application in packaging, which accounts for 60% of total consumption of the material. “The outlook for packaging is expected to be positive given the anticipation of holiday demand. However, downstream demand destruction in the industry is forecast at 15-20% lower year to date,” ICIS analyst Jincy Varghese said. For acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR), China’s import prices have softened this week, as more local end-users retreated to wind down and prepare for the holidays. “The pre-holiday restocking exercise ended just barely weeks after it started,” a regional NBR maker said, adding that “it was so lame, compared to the previous years”. Insight article by Nurluqman Suratman With contributions from Melanie Wee, Julia Tan, Izham Ahmad, Helen Yan, Judith Wang, Shannen Ng, Keven Zhang, Arianne Perez and Ai Teng Lim Thumbnail image: China's 2024 Year of the Dragon celebrations preparations in Beijing – 25 Jan 2024  (WU HAO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

26-Jan-2024

TOPIC PAGE: War in Ukraine, gas crisis

Note: this page is no longer updated and is held on the ICIS archive. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to an unprecedented energy crisis in 2022. Russian producer Gazprom slashed natural gas exports to Europe by 90%, expecting to deflect western military and political support for Ukraine. The war thus led to record natural gas prices around the world, as Europe scrambled to secure alternative volumes. These higher costs also had a major impact in other key areas such as fertilizers and petrochemicals. Although prices have since retracted, the damage remains, shown by sluggish demand levels, while the outlook is equally subdued – and not just in Europe. The World Bank has again revised down its global GDP forecast, to 2.4%, warning that the past five years will have seen the slowest half-decade of growth for 30 years. This topic page examines the impact of the Ukraine conflict on oil, gas, fertilizer and chemical markets. Image credit Vadim Ghirda/AP/Shutterstock Europe’s energy markets witnessed a year of record prices and extreme volatility in 2021. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to more difficult conditions for global markets since then. GAS SUMMARY Gas storage remains robust in Europe ahead of winter 2023 Poor downstream demand still affecting industrial production, gas demand Record shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe so far in 2023 LNG plus Norwegian, Algerian, Azerbaijani pipeline imports compensate for Russian supply shortfall Europe LNG processing operating at full capacity Nord Stream I and II pipelines damaged by explosions, zero flows to Europe EU implements voluntary 15% cut to consumption AMMONIA SUMMARY Russia supplies 20% of global seaborne ammonia market Disrupted supply has pushed up fertilizer and food prices OIL SUMMARY Friendship oil pipeline flows through Ukraine Russian oil feeds around a quarter of Europe demand Europe seeks to end reliance on Russian crude oil EU agrees ban on seaborne imports from 5 December 2022, petroleum products from 5 February 2023 From 5 December Russian crude oil cargoes only be insured if subject to price cap CHEMICALS SUMMARY Millions of tonnes of capacity remain offline despite gas cost collapse Elevated oil, gas prices dent consumer confidence and demand Prospect of recession, more cheap imports from Asia Margins, prices under pressure due to collapsed downstream demand Sanctions and measures against Russian exports of oil and gas have sent shockwaves across the global economy, lifting the cost of living, impacting industrial and agricultural production. How vulnerable are energy and energy-related Russian supplies to disruptions? Europe has historically depended for close to 40% of its annual gas consumption on Russian supplies, imported via four routes – Ukraine, Belarus-Poland as well as the Nord Stream 1 and TurkStream corridors linking Russia to Germany and Turkey via the Baltic and Black Sea, respectively. Overall Russian pipeline supplies were limited throughout 2021 and further reduced in 2022. By the end of last year Russian pipeline supplies fell to less than 10% of Europe's total gas imports compared to 40% in the previous year. Russian volumes shipped through Ukraine to Europe are now at third of what they should be as part of a five-year transit agreement Russia has banned exports of gas to several EU countries, and the Nord Stream I and II pipelines have been damaged. In 2022 flows via Yamal and Nord Stream 1 stopped completely. European petrochemicals players faced even higher gas prices as a result, though these have since collapsed to pre-war levels, though still above long-term averages. Fertilizer companies – where gas can account for 80% of costs – have been forced to curtail production. Chemicals were affected, especially those with high exposure to gas prices through utilities or feedstocks. If the conflict escalates, Ukraine transit pipelines may come under attack but disruptions could be limited because the infrastructure has been built to grant flexibility, allowing the operator to reroute flows away from potentially damaged segments. AMMONIA IMPACT The Togliatti-Azot pipeline, the world’s longest ammonia pipeline stretching 2,471km from the Togliatti Azot plant in Russian Samara Oblast to the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Yuzhny, could be caught up in the cross-fire. Russian ammonia supplies account for around 20% of the global seaborne merchant ammonia market each month. Around two thirds of those volumes are exported via Yuzhny, with the rest reaching European and global markets via Baltic ports. Ammonia is a prime material for fertilizers, so curtailments could potentially lead to higher food prices and shortages. Ammonia market players are scrambling to cover positions and assess options as the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw loadings at the key export hub of Yuzhny halted with immediate effect. Russian nitrogen fertilizer major Togliatti confirmed the suspension of the transit of ammonia to the Black Sea port via pipeline to ensure the safety of people living in the vicinity of the lengthy conduit. OIL PIPELINES VULNERABLE Supplies on the world’s longest oil pipeline, the Friendship (Druzhba) pipeline, could be threatened if the conflict leads to tough sanctions. The pipeline carries oil from central Russia 4,000km west to Ukraine and Belarus and runs close to the Belarus-Ukraine border. Russia exports around 5m bbl/day, of which half are exported to Europe, including via this pipeline. Russian oil accounts for about a quarter of Europe’s consumption, with the Druzhba pipeline carrying close to 1m bbl/day. Sanctions have been imposed on imports of Russian crude oil and products by sea, but the ban does not include pipeline oil. Europe consumed most exports of Urals, Russia’s biggest export grade, in 2021 after Saudi Arabia boosted market share in China. Almost 10m tonnes of Urals went through Rotterdam in the first half of last year, up 2m tonnes on 2020. Germany stands most exposed because it gets 25% of its oil from Russia. SInce the ban came into place, Russia has successfully switched exports mainly to China and India, though priced at a steep doscount. CHEMICALS IMPACT Gas and electricity are important components in the production costs of many chemicals. Surging gas and feedstock prices in Europe have caused margins to drop because producers are often unable to push these costs through to downstream customers. Now millions of tonnes of fertilizer and chemical capacity are offline in Europe. ICIS has also created an interactive timeline which shows the history of the gas impact since July 2021. These products have been most badly affected by outages in Europe, with more than half of capacity offline or running at reduced rates in some cases. Analysis by the ICIS Margin Analytics team shows the products which are most exposed to energy and gas prices in Europe as a feedstock or utility. Europe is at a competitive disadvantage to other regions and some customers are seeking new sources of lower-priced supply, especially from Asia and the Middle East. Collapsed demand means that millions of tonnes of European chemicals capacity remains offline despite much lower gas costs. The conflict in Ukraine has pushed European gas prices back up to record levels, forcing exposed chemical producers to cease production, or add further energy surcharges. Rising oil prices since late 2021 have already put chemical margins under pressure, and volatility has continued into 2022. As oil and naphtha prices soared, margins for ethylene production based on naphtha went negative for the first time ICIS record began. The are now are swinging wildy in tandem with oil price movements. Chemical producers are struggling to pass on increasing feedstock and energy costs in Europe. Elevated oil and gas prices also dent downstream consumer confidence and spending, with recession a possibility later in 2022 or 2023. What contingency plans are being put in place? Europe prepared for a difficult winter although rising storage fullness levels, falling demand and more import capacity for liquefied natural gas (LNG) have helped it get by, assuming there will not be an extensive cold spell. As of 11 October, storage facilities across Europe were 97% full compared with 88% the same time last year. Altogether another 157bn cubic meters/year of regasification capacity is due to be added by the end of the decade, increasing Europe's capacity by one third from pre-war levels.  Most of it should be ready by next year or 2025/26. The capacity includes offshore terminals in the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia/Finland. Demand has been decreasing by more than 20% in the industrial sector in north-west European countries and by 20-30% for households in Germany, according to official data. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Russia may completely stop its gas supplies to Europe via the last two remaining routes – Ukraine and Turkey, which could lop off some 70 cubic meters of Russian gas entering Europe daily. In such a scenario, the most affected countries would be those in eastern and central Europe, which are landlocked and have been struggling to secure regasified LNG from importing countries. For oil markets, in case of an attack but no international sanctions, the worst-case scenario would be for approximately 240,000 bbl/day of lost Russian exports via Ukraine. There are other seaborne routes, including the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Gas rationing – impact on Europe petrochemicals, fertilizers Embattled European fertilizer and petrochemical producers may be the first in line to cut gas consumption if the region experiences a cold snap in the weather. Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier, has been limiting exports to less than a quarter of its deliveries two years ago and may stop them altogether amid its political stand-off with the EU. Policymakers recommend voluntary reductions but say these would become mandatory in case of a supply emergency jeopardising the bloc’s security. DEMAND REDUCTION The EU’s largest consumers include households, accounting for 37% of total demand, electricity and heat generation covering around 30% and industrial consumption accounting for another 30%. Record high gas prices and an ongoing gas supply crunch over the least year had forced consumers to limit or stop production or seek import substitution globally. The mild winter has alleviated this situation. FERTILIZERS The fertilizer sector, one of the most gas-intensive industries, has also been one of the most affected so far as gas can account for up to 80% of production costs. Production has been cut back drastically because it is no longer economic. PETROCHEMICALS On the petrochemicals side, there are now deep production cuts for products such as methyl methacrylate (MMA) and melamine which are heavily exposed to natural gas for utilities or as a feedstock. Producers are making detailed plans for rationing, particularly in Germany, where the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry uses about 140 TWh per year, or about 15 percent of Germany's gas consumption. Gas is mainly used by petrochemicals to generate energy such as electricity and steam as well as to fire furnaces for production complexes such as crackers. Sites are able to lower operating rates significantly, but they may be forced to close if gas supplies drop so much that production becomes uneconomic or difficult from a technical perspective. Companies with flexibility are switching from natural gas to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or other sources of energy. Ukraine conflict threatens Europe oil supply, chemicals production With Russia's invasion of Ukraine, sanctions could cut supplies of crude oil through the Druzhba pipeline, threatening oil refinery operations and chemicals production at installations in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and the former East Germany. Russian oil supplies up to a quarter of Europe’s crude imports, with refineries in central and eastern Europe, which are attached to the Druzhba pipeline, particularly reliant on these supplies. Any interruption to these supplies could force refineries to reduce operating rates unless they can find alternative supplies. Analysis of the ICIS Supply & Demand database shows that the countries Druzhba runs through, except for Germany, are reliant on Russian crude oil for more than half of their imports, led by Slovakia which obtained 96% of its supplies from Russia in 2021. Chemical production downstream of refineries in these countries could be impacted by any reduction in operating rates. The ICIS data forecast that for 2022, 2.79m tonnes of ethylene (11% of total European capacity) and 2.34m tonnes of propylene (12% of total European capacity) are reliant on refineries located along the Druzhba pipeline. While some alternative sources of crude oil could be sourced, it is unlikely normal levels of operations could be maintained. Michael Connolly, ICIS Principal Analyst Refining said: “Although many have built alternate sources, keeping full operating rates would be difficult for them as they rely on a consistent and reliable source of crude. Most refiners in Europe are aware of the risk of Russian crude and over the past 5-10 years have tried to reduce their dependence, or at least to build some capability to have an alternate supply – it doesn't mean they would be unaffected, but there should be a little bit of resilience, depending on the site.” Connolly explained that some land-locked refineries along the Druzhba pipeline have built pipelines to the coast, allowing alternative sources of crude oil to be sourced. However, these pipelines may not have capacity to feed the whole refinery. A spokesperson for Grupa LOTOS said: "The LOTOS refinery has dealt with suspended supplies by land before. Due to the contamination of Russian oil with chlorines, PERN, the state-owned operator of transmission and storage infrastructure, had to completely discontinue the transmission of crude oil from the eastern direction between 24 April and 9 June 2019." He added that scheduling of oil supplies by sea helped to secure volumes sufficient to maintain an unchanged level of throughput and maximise fuel production. UKRAINE CHEMICALS UNDER THREAT With Russian forces present in Ukraine, chemical and fertilizer facilities may be threatened by physical damage, interrupted power and gas supplies or logistics disruption. Kalush cracker closed Karpatnaftohkhim's cracker at Kalush has been closed down because of the imposition of martial law in Ukraine. It has capacity (tonnes/year) of 250,000 (ethylene); 117,000 (propylene) 110,000 (LLDPE), 300,000 (PVC), 100,000 (benzene). Black Sea export hub closed  Ammonia market players have scrambled to cover positions and assess options as the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw loadings at the key export hub of Yuzhny halted with immediate effect. Russian nitrogen fertilizer major Togliatti confirmed the suspension of the transit of ammonia to the Black Sea port via pipeline to ensure the safety of people living in the vicinity of the lengthy conduit. The Samara Oblast-based giant also confirmed the shut down of four of its seven ammonia units, with the other three plants operating at reduced rates. Russia export disruptions to shift global trade flows, future capacities threatened Disruptions to Russia’s chemicals and polymers exports will change trade flows, particularly to Europe and Asia, as international sanctions, lack of logistics and even “self-sanctions” limit volumes. While Russia’s capacities are relatively small on a global scale, they can still have a significant impact on regional markets if these exports are disrupted. Key Russia exports include methanol, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), styrene and paraxylene (PX). Russia has increased exports of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) in particular in 2020 and 2021 as new capacity started up from SIBUR’s ZapSibNeftekhim complex in Tobolsk in 2020. LATEST HEADLINES INSIGHT: Top five risks for energy, petrochemicals and fertilizers in 2024: an Insight series By Aura Sabadus 26-Jan-24 00:39 LONDON (ICIS)–A wide range of threats to the global economy have been highlighted by international financial institutions, ranging from housing bubble busts and banking failures to extreme weather and cost-of-living crises. German chem labour union calls for 'massive' investments to reverse decline By Stefan Baumgarten 24-Jan-24 23:11 LONDON (ICIS)–Germany’s chemical and energy labour union IGBCE is calling for a "massive" investment package to reverse the decline in Europe’s largest economy. INSIGHT: Chemical M&A sets up for rebound in 2024 as deal backlog bursts at seams By Joseph Chang 18-Jan-24 04:57 NEW YORK (ICIS)–Following a horrendous 2023 with deal activity stymied by massive inventory destocking, weak demand, rising interest rates and tight capital markets, global chemical mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are setting up for a rebound in 2024. However, the magnitude of any recovery is still very much in question. OUTLOOK ’24: Naphtha, gasoline brace for ‘uncharted territory’ as crude enters another tumultuous year By Shruti Salwan 05-Jan-24 22:00 LONDON (ICIS)–The fate of the European naphtha and gasoline markets is likely to be determined by crude oil volatility in 2024, with a sharp shift in upstream prices and a flattening downstream demand curve to mount pressure upon refiners. OUTLOOK ’24 Uncertainty looms over Europe feedstocks By Cassandra Abolaji 05-Jan-24 20:00 LONDON (ICIS)–Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) demand is expected to pick up in Q1 as long as weather conditions remain steady. JANUARY CRUDE OUTLOOK: Prices could ease this month on global demand concerns By Eloise Radley 05-Jan-24 15:30 LONDON (ICIS)-Although shipping and supply worries have gripped the market in recent weeks, crude prices are likely to be subdued for the first month of 2024 as focus remains on weak demand. Strong economic headwinds in China, the US and the Eurozone are likely to raise fears of lower oil consumption in January. OUTLOOK '24: Europe capro, CX markets cautiously eye incremental improvement By Fergus Jensen 03-Jan-24 18:30 LONDON (ICIS)–After a year of contracting demand, Europe’s cyclohexane (CX) and caprolactam (capro) markets remain cautious, and beyond immediate disruptions they may see only marginal consumption gains in 2024 amid expectations of ongoing challenges in consuming industries. Coal closures to increase gas influence on German power By Calum Andrews 14-Dec-23 19:19 LONDON (ICIS)–Significant reductions in hard-coal capacity through 2024 could increase the influence of gas prices on the German power market, traders told ICIS. German clean dark spreads crash on power availability By Rian Flanagan 14-Dec-23 01:15 LONDON (ICIS)– German clean dark spreads move further out of the money after continued losses in the power market, pressured by strong fossil-fuel power plants and French nuclear availability. Free energy markets: Still fit for purpose? – Part 3 By Aura Sabadus 13-Dec-23 22:43 The deregulation of electricity and gas markets created the biggest transfer of wealth in history and enabled the efficient allocation to resources. However, the energy crisis of 2022 and the risks emerging from the green transition are raising questions whether the model is still fit for purpose. In this five-part series, Gretchen Ransow and Aura Sabadus analyse the ability of free energy markets to respond to three challenges: security of supply, security of infrastructure and security of price. LONDON (ICIS)– If the security of energy supplies is defined as the availability of energy in various forms in sufficient quantities, the security of infrastructure is described as the provision and protection of critical systems or assets needed to guarantee their delivery. PODCAST: Capacity equal to Europe’s entire 2023 ethylene demand could close by 2028 By Will Beacham 13-Dec-23 18:56 BARCELONA (ICIS)–As waves of new cracker projects come on stream first in China and then the Middle East, low demand growth means 18m tonnes of existing capacity could have to close by 2028 to maintain operating rates and margins. INSIGHT: Global petrochemicals market in a decade of unprecedented oversupply By James Wilson 12-Dec-23 23:14 LONDON (ICIS)–The global petrochemicals market is currently in a difficult moment with oversupply driving utilisation rates and margins for chemicals producers to hit record lows. CDI Economic Summary: US soft landing more likely as inflation eases By Joseph Chang 07-Dec-23 00:10 NEW YORK (ICIS)–What a difference a year makes! Last year around this time, there was nearly unanimous consensus among economists that the US was barreling into a recession. Today, less than half see such an outcome. GPCA'23: 2024 global PP/PE demand pick-up expected to be delayed By Nadim Salamoun 06-Dec-23 23:33 DOHA (ICIS)–Discussions about the polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) markets at the 17th Annual Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Forum in Doha centred on the pick-up of global demand in 2024. INSIGHT: Consolidation, new leaders to revive European competitiveness – LANXESS CEO By Joseph Chang 05-Dec-23 00:34 NEW YORK (ICIS)–Consolidation will be critical to reviving a stagnant European chemical industry to make it more competitive, and as a result, new leaders will emerge in specialty chemicals, said the CEO of Germany-based LANXESS. IPEX: Global spot index drops as soft demand, lower feedstock costs drive prices down By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 04-Dec-23 20:08 LONDON (ICIS)–The global spot ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) fell for the fourth consecutive week as softer upstream costs and subdued underlying demand keep pushing chemical prices down across all regions. Japan factory activity contracts anew; Nov PMI falls to 48.3 By Pearl Bantillo 01-Dec-23 13:50 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Japan’s manufacturing activity shrank in November, registering a purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading of below 50 for the sixth straight month, as output and new orders declined. Japan's Mitsui Chemicals restructuring continues amid Asia oversupply By Nurluqman Suratman 30-Nov-23 12:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals is considering downsizing its domestic phenols business, as well as optimize domestic cracker and polyolefin operations, as part of its business restructuring, to transition into a specialty chemicals producer by the end of the decade. PODCAST: Butanediol markets in Asia and Europe to usher in 2024 with soft demand By Yashas Mudumbai 30-Nov-23 20:50 LONDON (ICIS)–The Asian and European butanediol (BDO) markets have struggled with poor demand across downstream sectors in 2023.  Market players remain uncertain because there is little sign of the tide turning given current global economic conditions and new plant capacities in China. Japan's Mitsui Chemicals restructuring continues amid Asia oversupply By Nurluqman Suratman 30-Nov-23 12:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals is considering downsizing its domestic phenols business, as well as optimize domestic cracker and polyolefin operations, as part of its business restructuring, to transition into a specialty chemicals producer by the end of the decade. UK power December outlook mixed amid weather risks By Anna Coulson 29-Nov-23 02:00 LONDON (ICIS)— A mixed outlook is expected for UK power prices with delivery in December with potential for a bullish start to the month, likely to then transition to a bearish second half. Difficult conditions to persist with ‘highly challenged’ Europe, ‘painfully slow’ China recovery – LyondellBasell CFO By Joseph Chang 29-Nov-23 01:20 NEW YORK (ICIS)–Challenging market conditions for petrochemicals and plastics are expected to last through the end of this year and likely into H1 2024, the CFO of LyondellBasell said. IPEX: Global spot index continues to fall as NW Europe declines By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 27-Nov-23 21:07 LONDON (ICIS)–The global spot ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) dropped for the third week in a row as northwest European prices went down, counteracting a slight increase in northeast Asia and the US Gulf. INSIGHT: China likely to end property slump in H2 2024 By Fanny Zhang 27-Nov-23 19:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s ailing property sector is expected to see a turning point in the second half of 2024 when reduced supply meets returning demand. UK Q1 energy price cap rises quarterly, drops year on yearBy Anna Coulson 23-Nov-23 20:50 LONDON (ICIS)–The UK energy price cap for January-March increased quarter on quarter, energy regulator Ofgem said on 23 November, but has fallen year on year in line with lower wholesale gas and power prices. Oil prices fall more than $1/bbl after OPEC+ delays meeting By Nurluqman Suratman 23-Nov-23 10:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices fell by more than $1/bbl on Thursday, extending losses in the previous session after OPEC and its allies delayed a meeting to discuss whether to expand oil output cuts. ExxonMobil to significantly scale up plastics recycling business – president By Joseph Chang 22-Nov-23 23:31 HOUSTON (ICIS)–ExxonMobil is planning major investments and partnerships to become a leader in plastics recycling, said the head of its chemicals and refining business. Poor demand constrains Asia petrochemical production; further output cuts likely By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Nov-23 12:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Operating rates at petrochemical plants in Asia will remain constrained, with further production cuts likely amid weak margins due to high costs, oversupply, and poor downstream demand. INSIGHT: Asia petchem prices expected to trend down through traditional November lull By Jimmy Zhang 20-Nov-23 22:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia petrochemical prices are expected to move downward in November mainly due to the traditional low demand season. UK government to boost offshore wind support by 66% By Anna Coulson 17-Nov-23 02:29 LONDON (ICIS)–The UK government increased the maximum strike price available to new offshore wind projects by 66% it announced on 16 November, as it seeks to support development in a sector facing huge cost rises. Russia's EU gas market share: A battle on four fronts – LNG By Rob Dalton 17-Nov-23 01:44 Russia’s European market share may be further reduced if the Ukrainian gas transit contract is not renewed after 2024 and its LNG exports are sanctioned. While most central and western European buyers may be able to replace missing imports, Russia’s ability to retain and even regain some of the lost share will depend on four pivotal decisions, as Rob Dalton and Aura Sabadus explain in this six-part analysis. APLA '23: Petchems to get worse before it gets better on geopolitics, China exports – Arkema exec By Jonathan Lopez 14-Nov-23 01:10 SAO PAULO (ICIS)–The global downturn in petrochemicals may still need to reach a bottom as new geopolitical tensions add pressure to energy and feedstocks supplies, an executive at France’s chemicals major Arkema said on Monday. UK government considers shifting chems regulation plans to cut costs By Tom Brown 10-Nov-23 00:50 LONDON (ICIS)–The UK government is considering a rethink of its post-Brexit chemicals regulatory framework, focused around reducing the financial impact of the legislation and potentially stepping away from the goal of replicating the datasets held in the EU under the Reach system. INSIGHT: Companies focus further on costs as weak demand persists By Nigel Davis 09-Nov-23 00:35 LONDON (ICIS)–Weak demand is embedded in the supply chain making it extremely difficult this quarter to have any forward visibility for the start of next year. INSIGHT: Fourth quarter prices and margins under pressure against weak economic backdrop By Nigel Davis 07-Nov-23 00:50 LONDON (ICIS)–Petrochemical and polymer producers continue to balance output to demand, and costs to output, as well as they can. Operating rates remain depressed globally, and acutely so in Europe. And while there may be some stirrings in product supply chains, close inventory management keeps a lid on potential demand growth. Chevron to announce East Med assets “concept development process” in 2024By Clare Pennington 03-Nov-23 11:52 LONDON (ICIS)–US-based Chevron said it will select a concept for how to further develop its Eastern Mediterranean assets by the first quarter of 2024, according to a company spokesperson. Europe blending demand for ethanol, toluene and MX mixed By Zubair Adam 02-Nov-23 20:49 LONDON (ICIS)–Consumption in Europe for gasoline blending agents are mixed for ethanol versus aromatics products toluene and mixed xylenes. Power losses weigh on German coal and gas profits By Anna Coulson 02-Nov-23 00:44 LONDON (ICIS)– Decreasing power prices saw German clean dark and clean spark spreads fall further out of the money over the last seven days, with the rolling front-month clean dark spread seeing the greatest week-on-week loss. Polish and Ukrainian TSOs look into incremental gas capacity project By Irina Breilean 02-Nov-23 00:37 LONDON (ICIS)–Polish and Ukrainian transmission system operators (TSOs) Gaz-System and Gas Transmission System Operator Of Ukraine (GTSOU) have launched on 1 November a public consultation on a project to increment the gas interconnection between the two countries. Ukraine prepared for winter but Russian missile attacks still a risk By Aura Sabadus 01-Nov-23 01:15 LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine has stocked up on coal and gas resources for winter but increased Russian missile attacks and an extensive cold weather could leave it struggling to cover the deficit. Shell exits Pakistan via sale of entire SPL stake to Saudi Wafi Energy By Pearl Bantillo 01-Nov-23 15:01 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Shell will sell its 77.4% stake in a listed subsidiary company in Pakistan to Saudi Arabia’s Wafi Energy for an undisclosed amount, marking the Anglo-Dutch energy giant’s exit from the south Asian country by late next year. INSIGHT: Divergent trends in Asia olefins supply and demand balances for 2024 By Amy Yu 27-Oct-23 18:29 SINGAPORE(ICIS)–The supply and demand balance for the ethylene market in Asia will be improved in 2024, but the propylene imbalance will worsen current data show. CDI Economic Summary: US continues to show resilience on healthy consumer spending By Joseph Chang 26-Oct-23 05:16 CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (ICIS)–Despite softening consumer confidence, the US economy continues to roll along, driven largely by a healthy services sector and resilient consumer spending – a disconnect between sentiment and reality. High prices to limit European gas-fired generation in Q1 2024 By Rob Dalton 25-Oct-23 22:44 LONDON (ICIS)–Recent gains across European gas prices has pushed gas-fired power generators well out of the money for the first quarter of 2024, while clean dark spreads indicate increasing profitability for coal-fired generators. INSIGHT: More gas price volatility in 2023/4 as geopolitics spreads panic amid tight supply By Will Beacham 24-Oct-23 19:00 BARCELONA (ICIS)–European natural gas prices are likely to become even more volatile amid increasing geo-political instability and tight global liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply. Oil jumps more than $2/bbl as Middle East tensions heighten By Nurluqman Suratman 18-Oct-23 05:08 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices jumped by more than $2/bbl on Wednesday after tensions escalated in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas conflict following a blast at a hospital in Gaza that killed at least 500 people. Following the blast, leaders of Jordan and Egypt cancelled a summit with US President Joe Biden, who is travelling to Israel as part of efforts to prevent the conflict from widening. Middle Eastern producers sign new LNG supply deals By Kintan Andanari 18-Oct-23 20:54 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Middle Eastern producers QatarEnergy and ADNOC Gas announced separate LNG supply deals on 18 October, continuing a long line of contracts signed by Middle Eastern companies over the past year. QatarEnergy signed two long-term LNG sale and purchase agreements (SPAs) with Shell to supply up to 3.5m tonnes of LNG annually for 27 years from Qatar to the Netherlands, according to an 18 October QatarEnergy press statement .Meanwhile, ADNOC Gas signed a multi-year agreement with energy trader JERA Global Markets (JERA GM), a subsidiary of Japan’s largest power utility JERA Co Inc, ADNOC gas said in a statement . Details of the agreement’s tenure, volume and pricing were not immediately available. This represents the third long-term contract QatarEnergy signed for delivery to Europe with portfolio players over the past year, as the continent seeks to secure long-term LNG supply to replace Russian gas following the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war. IPEX: Global spot index maintains downward trend as NE Asia, NW Europe decline By Yashas Mudumbai 16-Oct-23 10:21 LONDON (ICIS)–The global spot weekly ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) remained on a downward trend in the week to 13 October, despite higher crude prices following an escalation of the Middle East conflict and fears about its impact on supply. The spot IPEX index for northeast Asia was down 1.7% in the week, dragged lower by tepid demand following the Golden Week holiday in China and hit by weaker paraxylene (PX), styrene and polyethylene (PE) values. Ukraine energy sector prepares for more military strikes this winter By Aura Sabadus 12-Oct-23 21:44 LONDON (ICIS)–The Ukrainian energy sector is prepared for winter despite the risk of new Russian attacks, the largest private power producer DTEK said in a statement on 12 October. The company, which generates around a quarter of Ukraine’s electricity capacity, said it had completed repairs on 16 thermal power units, doubled coal investments, tripled the pace of gas drilling and developed 114MW of hard-to-hit wind generating capacity 100km away from the frontline. It has spent $107m to repair thermal power plants and reconnected two moth-balled power units to provide an extra 500MW of capacity, it added. Ukraine’s electricity generation and transmission infrastructure has been heavily targeted in Russian attacks since the start of the war in February 2022. Chemicals stuck between low demand, volatile energy – UBS By Joseph Chang 10-Oct-23 05:23 NEW YORK (ICIS)–The chemical sector is expected to continue through a rough patch with weak volumes and volatile energy and feedstock costs through the end of the year, an analyst with investment bank UBS said. “Once again, volumes are generally weaker than anticipated, in spite of low expectations during the last earnings cycle,” said UBS analyst Joshua Spector in a research note, citing slower China demand and weaker Europe and US construction activity. “Uncertainty around end demand is again compounded by volatile energy prices, this time the quick move up in oil from mid-year, leaving chemicals firms stuck between weaker demand and shifting spreads,” he added. UK chemicals pessimistic as sector battered by higher costs, cheap imports and collapsed demand By Will Beacham 09-Oct-23 19:23 BARCELONA (ICIS)–The latest survey of UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) members reveals that the majority expect sales, production and operating rates to be flat or fall in Q4 2023 and 2024. The CIA’s Q3 Business Survey of 50 member companies says 86% of companies expect their sales to remain the same or reduce while 57% report lower production levels and capacity utilisation. Domestic demand remains low with only 4% of businesses reporting an increase in local sales. The UK chemical industry has been battered on all sides, with the cost of living crisis causing demand to collapse as consumers focus on the basics and shy away from big ticket purchases. This has particularly impacted the construction and automotive sector. China’s petrochemical market falls after surges in September, sentiment weak By Yvonne Shi 09-Oct-23 17:41 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's petrochemical market strengthened in H1 September, driven mainly by policy implementations, but as procurement and pre-holiday stocking gradually came to an end, the market saw less transactions and an increasingly cautious outlook. By end-September, the ICIS China Petrochemical Price Index (IPEX) rose slightly by 0.82% from the end-August, closing at 1,296.73. In late August and early September, China introduced a series of policies to boost the property market and consumption. The petrochemical futures market saw significant gains, which led to some recovery in the spot market. An increase in purchasing was attributed to seasonal demand, with more lower-price transactions seen. INSIGHT: Global economic slowdown at hand By Kevin Swift 03-Oct-23 00:39 Charlotte, NORTH CAROLINA (ICIS)–The years since the emergence of COVID-19 have been unusual to say the least, and old rules of thumb about economic cycles have evolved. The past year and a half have been especially challenging for business forecasters. There has been war in Europe along with energy disruptions (and price shock), geopolitical tensions in east Asia, worldwide inflation and tightening monetary policy by central banks. There have been recession calls by a number of prominent pundits but in the US, but a recession has yet to develop. Chemical companies have faced volatile raw material and selling prices, and demand has slumped in many markets. Earnings have suffered for many firms. INSIGHT: EU industry policy will support future low-carbon chemical industry By Nigel Davis 05-Oct-23 22:57 LONDON (ICIS)–The chemical industry often feels sidelined when, as the supplier of materials and potentially lower carbon solutions for industry and commerce, it thinks it should be at the centre in the debate about Europe’s industrial future. Yet, that perception is not necessarily correct. The EU is driving hard towards net zero encouraging delivery on its climate pledges. The European Commission has agreed the Transition Pathway for chemicals and is looking for solutions to many aspects of the move towards greater materials circularity and for the energy transition. The EU likes to incentivise investment and encourage climate change developments by regulation. Yet the adoption in the US last year of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided a wake up call and highlighted how a different approach might accelerate climate action. INSIGHT: Sustaining European assets in higher cost, low-carbon environment By Nigel Davis 02-Oct-23 22:50 LONDON (ICIS)–Companies across the value chain are accelerating towards decarbonisation trying to avoid the consequences that bumps in the road might bring but mindful of the destination. At the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting in Vienna last week it was clear that corporate carbon reduction pledges to wider society and the financial markets have a widespread impact, as producers, sellers and buyers of petrochemicals look to achieve targets on a regional as well as a global basis. UK power winter supply margins adequate – system operator By Calum Andrews 28-Sep-23 23:04 LONDON (ICIS)–The UK should be able to maintain adequate supply margins through Winter 2023, according to an outlook released by grid operator National Grid on 28 September. EPCA ’23: Europe petchem markets in trough, no upturn expected for 2024 By Katherine Sale 27-Sep-23 21:17 VIENNA (ICIS)–The European petrochemical markets are in a trough, with no demand upturn expected for 2024. High stocks, low demand to shield Europe’s winter gas supply margins By Rob Dalton 27-Sep-23 20:12 LONDON (ICIS)–After weathering the global energy crisis last year, the European gas markets’ outlook for winter 2023-2024 has significantly improved amid high gas storage levels and subdued demand. EPCA '23 INSIGHT: Europe petrochemicals face another tough year By Will Beacham 25-Sep-23 16:41 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Europe’s beleaguered petrochemical sector continues to be battered by persistent low demand, global overcapacity and cheap imports from China which are all contributing to poor margins. Germany producer prices fall by a record 12.6% By Stefan Baumgarten 21-Sep-23 02:58 LONDON (ICIS)–Producer prices in Germany fell 12.6% year on year in August, marking the biggest year-on-year decline since 1949, when collection of the data began. UK inflation edges down in August despite higher fuel prices By Morgan Condon 20-Sep-23 20:30 LONDON (ICIS)–UK annual inflation slowed for the third consecutive month in August, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) was recorded at 6.7%, down from 6.8% in July, driven by softening inflation for food prices. Further contraction was offset by rising prices for motor fuels. Oil prices hit highest since Nov ‘22 on China recovery hopesBy Nurluqman Suratman 15-Sep-23 12:11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Upbeat August data on China’s industrial production and consumer spending accompanied by cuts in banks’ reserve requirement on Friday sent crude prices soaring to their highest level since November 2022. INSIGHT: Lummus, Clariant enhance PDH tech amid tougher propylene market By Al Greenwood14-Sep-23 23:15 HOUSTON (ICIS)–The enhancements that Lummus Technology and catalyst producer Clariant have made to the CATOFIN propane dehydrogenation (PDH) technology will compete not just with the market leading Oleflex tech from Honeywell UOP, but with new entrants from Dow and KBR as well as renewable processes that have become more popular as companies strive to become more sustainable. INSIGHT: ICIS Leading Business Barometer gauges pressured global economy By Nigel Davis 14-Sep-23 18:47 LONDON (ICIS)–The health of the chemical industry can be used as a bellwether for the that of the wider economy, tied as it is so closely to upstream energy and vitally important downstream industries and sectors, principally autos, construction and electronics. PODCAST: Global oil Q4 tight supply could intensify on three factors By Eloise Radley 14-Sep-23 16:03 LONDON (ICIS)–Crude prices rose above $90/bbl for the first time in 2023, in the week ending 8 September. Europe, US economies to grow in 2024, China slowdown to persist for years: economist By Will Beacham 12-Sep-23 23:41 SITGES, SPAIN (ICIS)–Europe and the US economies should grow next year while China will be trapped in a prolonged multi-year slowdown, according to Koes De Leus, chief economist of BNP Paribas Fortis. INSIGHT: Saudi, Russia crude cuts firm prices but macro bearishness casts a shadow By Tom Brown 11-Sep-23 23:45 LONDON (ICIS)–News last week that Saudi Arabia and Russia are to extend voluntary crude oil output cuts through to the rest of the year has driven prices to the highest levels of the year, but economic weakness and stronger flows from elsewhere may cap gains. Singapore factory activity improves in Aug but major external headwinds remain By Nurluqman Suratman 06-Sep-23 13:58 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The country's manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose marginally to 49.9 in August from 49.8 in July, marking the third consecutive month of improvement, according to data from the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management. INSIGHT: Styrene capacity build up shifts global cost curve and threatens structural change By Moritz Lank 05-Sep-23 23:40 LONDON (ICIS)–High cost styrene production units are challenged in a difficult, slow-growing demand environment and one in which global capacity is building fast. INSIGHT: Trinseo seeks breathing room amid fiercely challenging market, financing conditions By Joseph Chang 07-Sep-23 03:55 NEW YORK (ICIS)–It has been a tough stretch for Trinseo as the polymers and latex binders producer seeks to refinance debt coming due next year amid fiercely challenging market and credit conditions, especially in Europe where it still operates a good chunk of assets even after shutdowns. European caustic soda quiet during August lull, spot prices under further pressure By Chris Barker 29-Aug-23 22:48 LONDON (ICIS)–European caustic soda players cut back activity in August, adding to the market's already weak outlook. Asia fatty alcohols mid-cuts C12-14 weakens on feedstock PKO decline By Helen Yan 30-Aug-23 12:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Despite ongoing and upcoming plant turnarounds, spot prices of mid-cuts C12-14 are facing downward pressure from the decline in the feedstock palm kernel oil (PKO) prices and stagnant demand. Europe MA offers undercut Asian offers, some restocking may be seen By Anne-Sophie Briant-Vaghela 29-Aug-23 22:05 LONDON (ICIS)–European maleic anhydride (MA) prices could be near a bottom, although it remains to be seen how long the uptick or a halt in the downtrend will last given unanimous expectations that underlying demand will be stagnant for the rest of the year. Europe jet fuel price rally stalls following upstream volatility, fading gasoil strength By Shruti Salwan 25-Aug-23 17:17 LONDON (ICIS)–Consumption for aviation and road fuels has started to soften as the wind-down of the summer travel season begins, with lower gasoil and jet fuel spending exerting downward pressure on prices. CDI Economic Summary: US mild recession expected in H1 2024 By Kevin Swift 25-Aug-23 03:30 CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (ICIS)–The US economy could enter a mild recession in H1 2024 as the lag effects from the Federal Reserve’s heavy dose of rate hikes finally kick in. The Fed has also signaled the potential for further hikes as core inflation remains sticky. Gas sell-off to trigger German peak spark spread upside By Daniel Muir 24-Aug-23 22:48 LONDON (ICIS)–The sell off of benchmark natural gas contracts after Australian LNG strike risks eased should see clean peak spark spreads for German front-year delivery rebound in coming sessions, traders told ICIS. Front-month clean dark and clean spark spreads tighten By Anna Coulson 24-Aug-23 00:32 LONDON (ICIS)–Rising fuel costs saw German rolling front-month Clean Dark and Clean Spark Spreads improve slightly over the last seven days, but a weaker fuel mix saw coal and gas front-year profitability decrease. Thailand 2023 growth forecast cut to 2.5-3.0% after H1 slowdown By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Aug-23 15:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Thailand on Monday cut its full-year growth forecast to 2.5-3.0% after the economy slowed in the first half of the year due to the weakness in global demand which has weighed on exports and manufacturing. INSIGHT: Shrinking China trade signals trouble for chemicals everywhereBy Will Beacham 10-Aug-23 19:26 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Double-digit declines in China’s latest import and export figures, together with shrinking domestic manufacturing data, confirm a persistent collapse in demand for chemicals around the world. Thailand’s PTTGC swings to Q2 net loss on crude-led slump in product prices By Pearl Bantillo 10-Aug-23 15:04 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Thai producer PTT Global Chemical swung into a net loss of baht (BT) 5.6bn ($159m) in the second quarter of 2023 as product prices tracked the slump in upstream crude prices amid global recession and petrochemical overcapacity concerns. Saudi raises most Sept crude prices for Asia; hikes all Europe prices By James Dennis 08-Aug-23 10:49 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia issued its September Official Selling Prices (OSP), with price rises for most grades for customers in Asia and more marked increases for customers in northwest Europe and the Mediterranean, while there were no increases for US buyers. Saudi Aramco Q2 net profit falls 37.9% on lower oil prices, poor chemical margins By Nurluqman Suratman 07-Aug-23 15:49 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Aramco's net profit fell by 37.9% year on year in the second quarter on the back of lower crude oil prices and weakening refining and chemicals margins, the Saudi energy giant said on Monday. Singapore manufacturing shows signs of recovery; external headwinds persistBy Nurluqman Suratman 03-Aug-23 12:55 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Singapore’s manufacturing sector showed signs of recovery in July as new orders improved, but export headwinds are expected to persist as economic conditions at major trading partners remain poor. OUTLOOK: US BD, SBR likely to remain oversupplied amid weak demandBy Amanda Hay 03-Aug-23 03:03 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US butadiene (BD) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) are expected to remain oversupplied through the second half of 2023 because of weak demand for tyres. Austrian gas storage withdrawals could buck 2022 trend in Q4 ‘23By Irina Breilean 02-Aug-23 22:54 LONDON (ICIS)–Austrian VTP price dynamics suggest storage withdrawals will likely concentrate during the first quarter of 2024, with VTP Q1 ’24 prices trading at a premium over Q4 ’23, October ’23 and November ’23. INSIGHT: BASF grapples with demand trough, slow road backBy Tom Brown 02-Aug-23 21:12 LONDON (ICIS)–BASF and the wider chemicals sector is dealing with an environment more singular even than the conditions seen in the pandemic and 2008 financial crash according to BASF chief Martin Brudermuller, with little sign of a V-shaped recovery from the current demand trough. INSIGHT: Commercial start-up of Vietnam petrochemical complex delayed amid weak global demand By Pearl Bantillo 02-Aug-23 18:57 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Thailand’s Siam Cement Group (SCG) expects mechanical completion and commissioning of Vietnam’s first cracker in August to September, pushing back the full commercial start-up of the Long Son Petrochemical project to the second half of the year amid oversupply concerns in Asia. China rolls out fresh stimulus to boost growth as July manufacturing contracts By Fanny Zhang 31-Jul-23 16:30 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China has announced new measures to revive its fragile economy that has been losing steam since the second quarter, with the focus on boosting consumption. INFOGRAPHIC: Europe PET in survival mode despite peak summer season By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 24-Jul-23 19:01 LONDON (ICIS)–Post-COVID life, coupled with the Russia-Ukraine war and the volatile macroeconomics it has unleashed, are upending consumers’ habits. Restaurants are full, tourism is booming, yet people are saving on supermarket purchases, which is severely hurting demand f or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). IMF ups 2023 global GDP forecast, slowed growth expectations remain By Tom Brown 25-Jul-23 21:00 LONDON (ICIS)–The IMF on Tuesday modestly increased its global GDP growth estimates for 2023 while maintaining expectations that the recovery over the next 18 months will continue substantially slower than in 2022 as post-COVID headwinds and the Russia-Ukraine war weigh on the economy. OUTLOOK: Europe polyols demand forecast uncertain for H2 By Zubair Adam 26-Jul-23 17:00 LONDON (ICIS)–Polyols consumption in Europe was mainly limited in H1 2023, and there is no major recovery expected in H2. OUTLOOK: Short-term European SBR demand expectations bearish By Melissa Hurley 27-Jul-23 17:00 LONDON (ICIS)–European styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) demand has weakened in 2023 and the situation is expected to continue in the third quarter. INSIGHT: Resurgence of Iran gas price debate as politicians seek a rollback to formula By Keven Zhang 28-Jul-23 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–In mid-July, an official announcement from the Iranian government stated that the natural gas price for petrochemical producers was Iranian rials (Rls)70,000/cubic metre, up from Rls50,000/cubic metre. OUTLOOK: Europe PX braces for a gloomy H2 amid recessionary fears By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 21-Jul-23 17:00 LONDON (ICIS)–The Europe paraxylene (PX) market is getting ready to navigate a second half of the year marked by disappointing downstream demand, as the challenging macroeconomic scenario keeps denting orders from customers. French nukes to drive German gas-to-power demand in August By Eduardo Escajadillo 20-Jul-23 23:07 LONDON (ICIS)–German gas-fired generation could potentially gain momentum in August to compensate in the event of lower French nuclear power output amid warmer temperatures forecast in northwest Europe. Ukraine needs more realistic energy targets to attract investors, MP By Aura Sabadus 20-Jul-23 17:42 LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine must guarantee a stable regulatory environment and competitive market conditions if it is determined to attract investments to rebuild its war-ravaged energy sector, Andrii Zuphanyn, the chair of the gas subcommittee in the Ukrainian parliament told ICIS. Profit warnings may drive sell-side M&A – bankers By Joseph Chang 20-Jul-23 04:55 NEW YORK (ICIS)–A very active earnings warning season for the chemical industry portending difficult conditions throughout 2023 could lead to more M&A activity, particularly on the sell side. Robust domestic demand to drive Asia ‘23 growth amid weak exports By Nurluqman Suratman 19-Jul-23 14:31 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday maintained its growth outlook for developing economies in Asia and the Pacific at 4.8% this year as robust domestic demand continues to support the region’s recovery. INSIGHT: Pakistan gets much-needed reprieve; polymer imports to improve By Pearl Bantillo 14-Jul-23 17:11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Billions of US dollars have started flowing into Pakistan after getting the much-awaited IMF stamp of approval that the south Asian nation will set its house in order, averting an impending sovereign debt default. INSIGHT: Chems warn of weak consumer goods, China as earnings season starts By Al Greenwood 13-Jul-23 21:41 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Chemical companies have flagged weakness in consumer goods and China in a wave of profit warnings issued before the start of earnings season. PODCAST: Falling chemical prices signal switch from inflation to deflation By Will Beacham 12-Jul-23 20:07 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Falling chemical prices could be a leading indicator of a switch from inflation to deflation in the broader economy. OUTLOOK: No respite from economic pressures and weak demand for Europe plasticizers market By Nicole Simpson 12-Jul-23 17:21 LONDON (ICIS)–Weak demand, strong competition between sellers and economic woe are expected to continue defining the European plasticizers spot market through the second half of 2023. OUTLOOK: As busy ‘warnings season’ nears end, a new reality sets in for H2 2023 By Joseph Chang 12-Jul-23 05:37 NEW YORK (ICIS)–A very active earnings warnings season for the chemical industry is just about over, resulting in a big reset downwards in earnings expectations for Q2 and the rest of the year. With a new reality setting in, the industry is bracing for earnings and new guidance that is likely to be far less optimistic than at the start of the year. OUTLOOK: Asia methanol to grapple with more supply; feedstock swings to direct market By Keven Zhang 11-Jul-23 11:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s methanol market is expected to grapple with increased global supply in the second half of 2023 as new capacities are slated to come on stream in China, Middle East and north America. Europe suffers further operating rate cuts as demand malaise, overcapacity bite By Will Beacham 07-Jul-23 16:49 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Collapsing demand and competition from other regions have led to further deterioration in operating rates for Europe’s petrochemical sector, new data from ICIS shows. South Korea removes tariffs on naphtha, crude imports until yearend By Nurluqman Suratman 07-Jul-23 15:21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–South Korea has removed tariffs imposed on naphtha and crude oil imports, to reduce cost burden for the domestic petrochemical industry and tame high inflation. Ukraine can scale up wind output despite war, market challenges By Aura Sabadus 06-Jul-23 20:01 LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine could bring online as much as 55GW of wind capacity by 2050 despite major challenges related to the Russian invasion and issues linked to market design. Weak economic activity pressuring European oil demand, refining margins By Cecilia Barreiro 06-Jul-23 00:07 LONDON (ICIS)–It has been difficult for oil prices to push above the $80/bbl threshold as economic anxiety weighs on the market. Weak industrial and manufacturing demand in the US, EU and China has driven bearish market sentiment despite recent announcements from Saudi Arabia, Russia and Algeria of further supply cuts. Eurozone manufacturing slips to mid-2020 levels as demand slows, rate hikes bite By Tom Brown 03-Jul-23 19:00 LONDON (ICIS)–Eurozone manufacturing sector activity slowed in June to the weakest level since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as demand continued to fall, confidence sank and producers started to feel the impact of the central bank's interest rate hikes. INSIGHT: China MTBE pushed into overseas markets due to limited domestic demand By Aviva Zhang 30-Jun-23 12:30 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Chinese methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) producers have been pushing into overseas markets since 2022 due to limited domestic consumption potential. Production capacity is in surplus and gasoline demand has plateaued. Brazil’s chemicals May producer prices fall sharply on lower naphtha values, stronger real By Jonathan Lopez 30-Jun-23 02:26 SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s chemicals producer prices fell by nearly 6% in May, month on month, on the back of lower global naphtha values and a stronger currency bringing down prices in reais, the country’s statistics office IGBE said on Thursday. INSIGHT: Worries over weak Asia PA6 and domestic China market remain By Josh Quah 28-Jun-23 20:25 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia polyamide 6 (PA6) markets are ending the quarter with much of the concerns that have been prevalent since the start of it – against a backdrop of weak demand in most regions and already below-threshold margin levels under pressure of falling further. OX imports into Europe up by nearly 10% in Q1 By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 27-Jun-23 19:55 LONDON (ICIS)–Imports of orthoxylene (OX) into the EU and the United Kingdom went up by 9.9% in Q1 year on year, according to the latest data from the ICIS Supply and Demand database. European heatwave could dampen German power imports through July By Calum Andrews 23-Jun-23 01:05 LONDON (ICIS)–Germany is likely to maintain a net import position through July, market sources have suggested to ICIS, however the extent will largely hinge on European temperatures. INSIGHT: Embedding inflation further weakens 2023 industrial demand for chemicals By Nigel Davis 22-Jun-23 20:12 LONDON (ICIS)–Chemical producers in Europe are in an especially difficult position but operators worldwide have had to face up to the fact that demand recovery in 2023 appears increasingly distant. INSIGHT: LANXESS CEO ‘Lehman 2’ warning highlights extreme and broadening demand weakness By Joseph Chang 21-Jun-23 05:29 NEW YORK (ICIS)–A huge earnings warning by Germany-based specialty chemicals company LANXESS highlights the extreme and extended weakness in European and global construction and electronics markets, along with surprising declines in “usually stable” consumer applications. Asia polyolefins overcapacity to worsen amid eurozone recession By Nurluqman Suratman 20-Jun-23 14:38 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s polyolefins market is bracing for a supply overhang as heavy capacity additions coincide with a significant weakening of demand from the recession-laden eurozone, and amid the slowing Chinese economy. Global weekly spot IPEX down again on declines across regions By Yashas Mudumbai 19-Jun-23 18:58 LONDON (ICIS)–The global spot ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) went down by 1.7% week on week on the back of price declines across all regions. Ample UK gas supply to boost exports over winter 2023 By Hector Falconer 16-Jun-23 01:30 LONDON (ICIS)–National Gas released its Gas Winter Review and Consultation on 15 June. For this coming winter, the British grid operator expects: INSIGHT: Shell joins list of companies reviewing chemicals as demand tanks, overcapacity grows By Will Beacham 15-Jun-23 22:36 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Shell has joined the ranks of major chemical companies which are reviewing and rationalising their operations as demand and profitability continue to fall amid rampant overcapacity. INSIGHT: Asia petrochemicals markets plunge in June on supply length – ICIS analysts By Ann Sun 15-Jun-23 18:24 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Following a weak May, petrochemical markets in Asia are witnessing a further drop in prices in June on supply/demand imbalances. INSIGHT: Shell to be ‘ruthless’ in capital allocation with Singapore petchems, Europe units under review By Joseph Chang 15-Jun-23 05:29 NEW YORK (ICIS)–UK-based energy giant Shell will take a “ruthless” approach to capital allocation along with a focus on simplification. There will be a renewed commitment to oil and gas, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) where returns are expected to be the highest, while chemicals will come under greater scrutiny with the Singapore energy and petrochemical assets under review and European plants being evaluated “unit by unit”. JUNE CRUDE OUTLOOK: Bearish demand narrative confronted by tightening global oil supplies By Cecilia Barreiro 13-Jun-23 22:39 LONDON (ICIS)–Oil prices are expected to continue retreating during the rest of June as worries over the health of the global economy and bearish oil demand prospects depress market sentiment. However, dwindling spare capacity and a tighter sour-crude market could rekindle price volatility in July. PODCAST: China, energy transition spur volatility in oil and chemical markets By Will Beacham 13-Jun-23 20:36 BARCELONA (ICIS)–As China’s economy decelerates and the shift to renewable energy gathers pace, prepare for much greater volatility in the oil and chemical markets. Global spot IPEX down for ninth consecutive week on falls across all regions By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 12-Jun-23 19:31 LONDON (ICIS)–The global spot ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) went down by 1.8% week on week on the back of price declines across all regions. Saudi Arabia 2023 GDP growth slows to 2.1% on oil output cuts – IMF By Nurluqman Suratman 08-Jun-23 15:31 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, is expected to post a slower GDP growth of 2.1% this year in view of production cuts announced in April, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Czech Republic eyes SMRs development in addition to standard reactors by 2030 By Simona Uhrinova 08-Jun-23 01:14 LONDON (ICIS)–The Czech Republic would need to develop small and medium sized modular reactors (SMRs) in addition to standard nuclear plants to reduce its dependence on cross-border imports before 2030. ICIS China May petrochemical price index slumps 7%; June demand stays weak By Yvonne Shi 08-Jun-23 11:33 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Sluggish demand sent the ICIS China Petrochemical Price Index in May tumbling by 7% from end-April despite some stability in the upstream crude market during the period. Fears of gloomy summer for Europe PE, PP By Ben Lake 06-Jun-23 19:25 LONDON (ICIS)–Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) players in Europe are bracing for a challenging summer, with buyers worried by woeful demand, while producers closely monitor already lowered operating rates to avoid dipping into negative margins. Dow cuts Q2 sales guidance on challenging macros By Joseph Chang 02-Jun-23 04:48 NEW YORK (ICIS)–US-based Dow is taking down its Q2 sales forecast to a range of $11.0bn-11.5bn from its prior estimate of $11.75bn-12.25bn on challenging macroeconomic conditions and lower pricing levels, its CEO said at an investor conference. PODCAST: Ukraine SOE corporate governance is vital for reconstruction efforts, specialist By Aura Sabadus 01-Jun-23 21:28 LONDON (ICIS)– Corporate governance rules at Ukraine’s energy state owned enterprises (SOEs) have been critical to market reforms and to helping the country secure a long-term gas transit contract with Russia. NE Asia C2 outlook downbeat on rising regional supply, weak China data By Yeow Pei Lin 01-Jun-23 11:26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Northeast Asia’s ethylene (C2) players are cautious on expectations of rising regional supplies and weak downstream outlook for the third quarter as the recovery in the Chinese economy loses momentum. Caixin China May manufacturing PMI rises to 50.9, first expansion in three months By Nurluqman Suratman 01-Jun-23 11:26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Caixin’s China manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) picked up from 49.5 in April to 50.9 in May, marking the first expansion in three months, the Chinese media firm said on Thursday. High stocks could curb Italian Q4 ‘23 gas and power risk By Camilla Vitanza 31-May-23 23:44 LONDON (ICIS)– High gas storage levels could reduce some of the risk premium priced in the Italian gas and power Q4 ’23 products ahead of expiry, although LNG supply will likely remain a key driver. China manufacturing weakness weighs on crude; outlook dims further By Nurluqman Suratman 31-May-23 13:36 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's manufacturing sector lost further momentum in May, heightening concerns that oil consumption in the world’s second-biggest economy could weaken further. INSIGHT: Petrochemical prices and margins under relentless pressure By Nigel Davis 31-May-23 00:38 LONDON (ICIS)–The persistent global weak demand environment continues to put pressure on producers and prices are falling as the balance with output remains elusive. PODCAST: Demand flops in chemical markets around the world, gloomy outlook By Will Beacham 30-May-23 20:25 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Chemical markets around the world are suffering from collapsed demand conditions and oversupply with no prospect of a turnaround in the coming months. Depressed US manufacturing activity weighing on PP demand By Zachary Moore 26-May-23 05:40 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Demand for polypropylene (PP) in the US is facing a bearish short-term outlook as the US manufacturing sector remains in contractionary territory. INSIGHT: A tale of two economies, as resurgent services eclipses languishing industry By Tom Brown 25-May-23 23:05 LONDON (ICIS)–After the dark warnings of late 2022, ministers at the European Commission could be forgiven for sounding a little smug. PODCAST: Rampant China chemicals overcapacity could rebalance by 2024/5 By Will Beacham 25-May-23 21:00 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Excess capacity plaguing China’s petrochemical markets could return to more balanced conditions by 2024/5 as the current wave of additions ends and demand gradually improves. APIC '23: INSIGHT: Asia petrochemicals navigate poor demand amid China start-ups; carve 'green' path By Pearl Bantillo 24-May-23 19:50 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Uncertainties will hound Asia’s petrochemical markets for the rest of the year and possibly into 2024 amid the global economic slowdown at a time of strong capacity additions in regional powerhouse China. INSIGHT: Europe petrochemicals demand remains weak and prices under intense pressure By Nigel Davis 23-May-23 23:10 LONDON (ICIS)–This striking chart from Germany’s chemicals and pharmaceuticals trade association, the VCI, does not even tell the full story for the country’s petrochemical and polymers sectors. APIC ’23: Asia PE, PP margins to stay in unhealthy range despite China reopening By Nurluqman Suratman 19-May-23 19:25 NEW DELHI (ICIS)–Asia’s polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) markets are expected to face poor margins across all production routes despite China’s reopening, an industry analyst said on Friday. APIC ’23: Japan petrochemical plants run at 80% on current demand By Pearl Bantillo 19-May-23 17:13 NEW DELHI (ICIS)–Japan’s petrochemical plants have been running at an average rate of about 80% amid demand uncertainties this year, an industry executive told ICIS. INSIGHT: Fundamental Asia olefin imbalance persists despite better margins By Joey Zhou 19-May-23 14:00 SINGAPORE(ICIS)–Asia olefin margins from major production routes have improved and remained in profitable territory since March, driven by lower feedstock prices. Eurozone inflation rises on energy cost pressure By Morgan Condon 17-May-23 20:05 LONDON (ICIS)–Eurozone inflation edged up slightly on persistent pressure from energy costs in April, as the rate for the wider EU showed a soft decrease, according to the latest data from the EU’s statistical agency Eurostat on Wednesday. Annual inflation in the eurozone rose to 7.0%, up from 6.9% in March.  In the wider EU, annual inflation fell to 8.1%, from 8.3% in the previous month. Compared to a year prior, inflation for the eurozone remained slightly softer, as the rate was pitched at 7.4% in April 2022, while the level remained stable on the previous year for the EU at 8.1%. Global oil demand expectations for 2023 increased in May on stronger China recovery – IEA By Morgan Condon 16-May-23 22:25 LONDON (ICIS)–Global oil demand is set to increase in 2023, driven by strength in China, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Tuesday. The IEA’s monthly oil report shows that demand is expected to rise by 2.2m bbl/day year on year in 2023, marking an average 102m bbl/day, supported by economic recovery in China surpassing expectations. Macroeconomic pressures and soft demand was reflected in weaker oil pricing in April and early May, caused lingering concerns of a recession in some regions. The IEA, however, increased its output forecast on a strong recovery in the second half of the year. China is expected to account for nearly 60% of global growth in 2023. INSIGHT: Weak demand dominates chemicals in Q2 as economies drag By Nigel Davis 11-May-23 00:41 LONDON (ICIS)–The persistence and wide spread of the demand slump is the key issue for chemical producers in 2023, now mid-way through the second quarter. Recent financial reporting from chemical companies of all types and in all locations has underlined the impact of weak demand on sales in the first quarter. The year-on-year comparisons have proved to be stark, and reduced production the driver of lower revenues at a time of still high costs of sales. Certainly, the focus in Europe and large parts of the rest of the world has shifted from energy costs (and availability). Higher feedstock costs, slow demand maintain pressure on US polyether polyol margins By Zachary Moore 21-Apr-23 06:41 HOUSTON (ICIS)–A combination of higher feedstock costs along with slower demand has been maintaining pressure on margins for US polyether polyol producers, with margins likely to remain compressed over the next few months. INSIGHT: Plastics, petchems in Europe still waiting for construction season, Q2 may be reality check By Vicky Ellis 20-Apr-23 21:45 LONDON (ICIS)–As warmer, sunnier days grow more frequent, Europe’s construction industry should be ramping up for a busy period. But the season is proving a disappointment, with weaker demand across a wide range of petrochemical and plastics products. INSIGHT: Hope for 2023 European construction market recovery falters as spring demand uptick fails to materialize By Nicole Simpson 19-Apr-23 20:52 LONDON (ICIS)–Since late 2022, chemicals players have been hopeful that better demand is just around the corner but optimism is faltering as economic conditions remain challenging and spring construction demand has failed to ignite. INSIGHT: Diverse Asia April price trends for olefins and aromatics chain chemicals By Jimmy Zhang 19-Apr-23 19:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)– Weak consumer confidence and economic pressures are expected to weigh on the price outlook for Asia petrochemicals. UK summer demand to drop, exports to France in Q3 likely By Anna Coulson 19-Apr-23 00:07 LONDON (ICIS)–National Grid is confident that there will be sufficient supply to meet electricity demand over the summer, the UK’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) announced in its Summer Outlook 2023 on 18 April. Global oil demand growth hopes pinned on faltering Chinese economy By Barney Gray 12-Apr-23 18:42 LONDON (ICIS)–Chinese government data for March, published earlier this month, indicated that domestic consumer demand is weak and the manufacturing sector was under pressure at the end of Q1, which could hinder the anticipated China-led growth in global oil demand. IMF keeps developing Asia 2023 growth forecast at 5.3%; trims India projections By Nurluqman Suratman 12-Apr-23 13:23 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has kept its 2023 growth forecast for developing Asia at 5.3% but trimmed its forecast for next year amid rising risks in global financial conditions. INSIGHT: Europe chemicals must wait until 2026/7 for gas cost relief By Will Beacham 11-Apr-23 22:58 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Although record inflows of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have helped European gas prices fall, a cold winter could see them soar, with relief from volatility only in prospect for petrochemical customers by 2026/7 when major new sources come onstream globally. INSIGHT: Vietnam economy sputters as first petrochemical complex about to start up By Pearl Bantillo 06-Apr-23 11:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Vietnam hopes to stem deteriorating manufacturing conditions, borne of weak external demand, by cutting the cost of borrowing to spur domestic activity as it gears toward commercial operations of its first petrochemicals complex. US auto sector faces economic headwinds on rising interest rates, higher prices By Adam Yanelli 05-Apr-23 05:05 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US March auto sales ticked lower from February as economic headwinds have replaced supply chain issues as obstacles facing the industry that relies heavily on chemicals. Developing Asia 2023 GDP to grow faster at 4.8% but downside risks remain – ADB By Nurluqman Suratman 04-Apr-23 12:10 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Developing economies in the Asia Pacific region are projected to grow at a faster pace of 4.8% this year and in 2024 on the back of higher consumption, tourism and investments due to continued easing of pandemic restrictions, but downside risks remain, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said. INSIGHT: Europe chems look to tough Q2 as economic indicators remain choppy By Tom Brown 03-Apr-23 21:47 LONDON (ICIS)–With expectations growing for some of the headwinds buffeting the chemicals sector to ease in the second half of the year, conditions remain challenging for the second quarter, while economic indicators point to a continuing “volatile phase” according to an analyst. Oil surges after surprise OPEC+ output cut, lifting Asia naphtha, benzene By Nurluqman Suratman 03-Apr-23 12:57 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices rose by more than $6/bbl on Monday after the OPEC and its allies unexpectedly announced further production cuts of about 1.16m barrels per day on Sunday. Hungary unlikely to reach EU intermediate gas storage targets By Irina Breilean 29-Mar-23 12:53 LONDON (ICIS)–Hungary may not reach the next EU intermediate storage fullness target on 1 May, ICIS analysis indicates. EU intermediate targets have been in place since November 2022, in preparation for the start of the 2023 gas winter. The targets apply to all member states with underground gas storage sites on their territories and directly interconnected to their market areas. Intermediate targets are in force for 1 February, 1 May, 1 July, and 1 September, two months ahead of the beginning of the gas year. ICIS data shows storage sites across Hungary were 33.2% full on 27 March, a 26.2 percentage point increase compared to last year. However, this still stands 3.8 percentage points short of the upcoming May target of 37%. Joint gas purchasing uptake may be slow as buyers locked into contracts By Gretchen Ransow 28-Mar-23 23:20 LONDON (ICIS)–Uptake of the EU’s joint purchasing model may be limited in its first year, as companies were already locked into contracts due to “huge panic” about prices in 2022, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic told the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) on 28 March. However, if the platform does prove successful the EU wants to extend the model beyond gas to other strategic commodities such as hydrogen, critical raw materials or technologies linked to the energy transition. Sefcovic told ITRE on 28 March that there was still much work to do but joint gas purchasing would give valuable experience for the future. Ukraine's new policy proposals to 'revolutionise' energy sector By Aura Sabadus 28-Mar-23 00:22 LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine is preparing a raft of wide-ranging regulations that could pave the way for the complete overhaul of its energy sector. The step is a priority for the mid-term, a senior Kyiv-based lawyer told ICIS. Maksym Sysoiev, partner at global law firm Dentons, said the reconstruction of the energy sector is deemed a priority for Ukraine and added that if all regulations that are now under discussion are implemented, they would trigger a “revolution” in the energy sector. Russia to extend export restrictions on fertilizers until November By Deepika Thapliyal 27-Mar-23 22:39 LONDON (ICIS)–Russia is planning to extend restrictions on fertilizer exports until November to guarantee availability in the domestic market, according to the country’s agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev. Current restrictions on exports are valid until end-May. To curb inflation and to ensure that there was a reliable supply of fertilizers to its farmers, the government imposed export quotas in December 2021. The restrictions have continued since the war with Ukraine broke out in February 2022, although they have not had a significant impact on the availability of Russian fertilizer exports – apart from nitrates. Asia petrochemicals demand tepid on macroeconomy, oversupply concerns By Nurluqman Suratman 24-Mar-23 14:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's petrochemical markets continue to face tepid demand as economic recovery in regional bellwether China remains slower than initially expected, with new production capacities adding to oversupply concerns. European acrylates subdued with underwhelming demand By Mathew Jolin-Beech 24-Mar-23 01:26 LONDON (ICIS)–The European acrylates markets are all currently subdued with demand described as “soft." CDI Economic Summary: US regional banking crisis lowers odds of soft landing By Joseph Chang 23-Mar-23 22:21 NEW YORK (ICIS)–The failure of two sizeable banks (Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank) in the US and the crisis of confidence contagion spreading to other regional banks and now European financial institutions threatens to significantly tighten lending conditions at the very least, further slowing economic growth and potentially tipping US and European economies into recession. Asia PMDI import markets bearish on poor downstream demand By Shannen Ng 23-Mar-23 15:12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian import markets for polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (PMDI) were dominated by largely bearish sentiment in the week ended 22 March. PODCAST: Asia, Mideast PS demand tepid on competitive imports, feedstock volatility By Damini Dabholkar 23-Mar-23 11:14 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian and Middle Eastern polystyrene (PS) markets are seeing slow demand with regional supply remaining relatively unchanged. INSIGHT: US Fed undeterred from 2% inflation goal means more tough times ahead for chemicals By Joseph Chang 23-Mar-23 05:34 NEW YORK (ICIS)–Even amid a regional banking crisis, the US Federal Reserve remains undeterred in its goal of bringing inflation down to its 2% target. This was evidenced by another 0.25 percentage point rate hike and will mean weakening economic conditions, a lower chance of a soft landing and a more challenging demand environment for chemicals going forward. Phenol energy surcharges will start to disappear on lower TTF, but no demand improvement seen By Jane Gibson 23-Mar-23 00:57 LONDON (ICIS)–Falling upstream gas prices may offer chemical sellers and buyers some relief but the impact on demand levels has yet to be significant. PODCAST: Plunging shipping rates point to normalising global logistics, Europe under pressure By Will Beacham 22-Mar-23 22:58 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Steep falls in container shipping rates indicate that the pandemic-induced logistics crisis may be drawing to a close, but this now makes Europe more vulnerable to a flood of cheap imports from Asia. US R-PET buying sentiment weakens in wake of banking crisis By Arianne Perez 22-Mar-23 20:11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian exporters of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) cargoes are expected to continue to see cautious buying from converters in the US following the banking crisis. INSIGHT: New PE/PP capacities risk derailing nascent Asia polyolefin recovery By Izham Ahmad 22-Mar-23 17:28 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–A wave of new polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) supply in Asia is threatening to upend the tentative demand recovery the region has been experiencing since the end of the Lunar New Year holidays as new suppliers fight to establish market share in an increasingly crowded market. Asia polyamide 6,6 Q2 mood darkened by fiscal year closing, demand outlook By Josh Quah 22-Mar-23 13:12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s nylon polyamide 6,6 (PA66) markets remain weak, ahead of turnarounds coming up for some producers in northeast Asia. China PP prices fall to nearly three-year low amid increasing supply, lower-than-expected demand By Lucy Shuai 22-Mar-23 12:44 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China polypropylene (PP) prices fell to a nearly three-year-low amid increasing supply and lower-than-expected demand, and the market may remain under pressure in Q2. Asia naphtha swings to multi-month lows on volatile crude By Melanie Wee 21-Mar-23 13:42 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s naphtha markets can expect heightened volatility, largely tracking crude oil futures movement, as demand prospects are being weighed down by market jitters over the health of the global banking system. PODCAST: Subdued spot trading activity in Europe's oxo-alcohols and derivatives markets By Marion Boakye 21-Mar-23 03:35 LONDON (ICIS)–Throughout March – the oxo-alcohols and derivative markets in Europe have experienced weak spot demand, ample supply, and thin import opportunities. INSIGHT: Constrained consumer budgets limit demand for major chemicals consuming sectors By Nigel Davis 21-Mar-23 00:49 LONDON (ICIS)–This is by no means an easy time for chemical producers as the industry’s major downstream markets continue to be influenced by the impact on demand of rising costs and higher interest rates. Europe's chemical sector shrinks – battered by high costs, poor demand and cheaper imports By Will Beacham 20-Mar-23 23:10 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Collapsing Q4 profits and losses for European chemical majors, together with low expectations for 2023, show just how badly the sector is still suffering. Europe markets firm after emergency UBS Credit Suisse purchase By Tom Brown 20-Mar-23 20:15 LONDON (ICIS)–European markets firmed on Monday after Switzerland-based banking group UBS announced plans to acquire embattled rival Credit Suisse, raising market hopes that banking sector contagion may be limited. Global weekly spot IPEX down on price declines across regions By Will Beacham 20-Mar-23 19:11 LONDON (ICIS)–The global weekly spot ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) fell by 2.0% week on week on the back of lower index values across regions. PODCAST: Asian PP markets grapple with increased supply, lower-than-expected demand in 2023 By Damini Dabholkar 20-Mar-23 19:06 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian polypropylene (PP) markets are being challenged by increasing capacity in 2023, especially in the China market, while demand continues to recover more slowly than expected. Crude dips to lowest since December 2021 on banking sector turmoil By James Dennis 20-Mar-23 17:52 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Crude prices declined on Monday to their lowest levels since December 2021 before recovering on growing financial concerns following equity market losses and instability in the banking sector in Asian trading. Asia petrochemical shares, oil prices weaken after UBS rescue of Credit Suisse By Nurluqman Suratman 20-Mar-23 12:43 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Shares of petrochemical companies in Asia were mostly weaker and crude futures fell on Monday on fears of a banking crisis contagion, as troubled Credit Suisse was rescued by its Swiss rival UBS in a government-backed deal. INSIGHT: European TiO2 operations at risk, but China may not be the answer By Heidi Finch 17-Mar-23 17:53 LONDON (ICIS)–While energy costs in Europe are more relaxed  compared with 2022 peaks, the TiO2 marketand the wider chemical industry in Europe are still facing residual economic and demand headwinds. European production is at risk, while China/Asia capacity is increasing. Asia glycerine demand weighed down by caution after US bank collapse and turmoil By Helen Yan 17-Mar-23 11:48 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s glycerine spot demand has been weighed down by prevailing caution following the collapse of two mid-sized banks in the US and plunging bank stocks in Europe. INSIGHT: Banking contagion threatens to spread, hit chemicals demand hard By Joseph Chang 17-Mar-23 05:47 NEW YORK (ICIS)–The failure of two sizeable banks (Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank) in the US and the crisis of confidence contagion spreading to other US regional banks and now European financial institutions threatens to significantly tighten lending conditions at the very least, further slowing economic growth and potentially tipping the US and European economies into recession. Asia naphtha tumbles on tepid demand; crude oil losses By Melanie Wee 16-Mar-23 12:56 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia naphtha markets are under pressure on the back of fragile demand, while taking cues from global crude oil futures. INSIGHT: Banking woes rattle US chem shares By Al Greenwood 16-Mar-23 05:03 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Shares of US-listed chemical companies fell on Wednesday amid concerns about the implications of a string of bank failures. Topic Page by Aura Sabadus and Will Beacham. Additional reporting by  Richard Ewing and Sophie Udubasceanu. Maps and graphs by Yashas Mudumbai.

26-Jan-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 19 January 2024. China capacity expansion to widen Asia MIBK price spreads By Hwee Hwee Tan 19-Jan-24 11:19 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) import price indications were mixed as buying interest softened in China, where a massive capacity expansion looks set to transform the largest regional economy into a net exporter for the product. China achieves 2023 GDP growth target; challenges cloud 2024 prospects China’s economic growth has accelerated to 5.2% in 2023 from a pandemic-hit pace of 3.0% in the previous year, but a prolonged slump in its property sector and weak external demand threaten 2024 recovery prospects. The 2023 GDP print of the world’s second-biggest economy, largely within the government’s expectations of “around 5%”. Singapore Dec petrochemical exports fall 14%; NODX down 1.5% By Nurluqman Suratman 17-Jan-24 10:45 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Singapore’s petrochemical exports in December fell by 14% year on year to Singapore dollar (S$) 1.09bn, weighing on overall non-oil domestic (NODX) abroad, official data showed on Wednesday. The country's overall non-oil domestic (NODX) for the month fell by 1.5% year on year to S$14bn, reversing the 1.0% increase in the preceding month, Enterprise Singapore data showed. Asia toluene buying interest improves; spread against benzene widens By Melanie Wee 16-Jan-24 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia toluene spot markets are holding steady on buoyant demand amid a widening spread to benzene. Improved buying interest for February cargoes for solvents sector application offered market support, aiding in propping up Asia toluene prices. Asia MMA sellers’ sentiment stays strong on supply crunch for Jan, Feb By Jasmine Khoo 15-Jan-24 11:03 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Spot methyl methacrylate (MMA) supply in Asia is poised to be curtailed by low operating rates across regional facilities and feedstock cost pressure which could extend into February. PODCAST: Asia PP to continue being weighed by oversupply in 2024 By Zhibo Xiao 17-Jan-24 14:25 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analysts Joanne Wang, Zhibo Xiao and Jackie Wong discuss the Asian polypropylene (PP) market and outlook for 2024.

22-Jan-2024

US regulatory overreach threatens chemical industry competitiveness – ACC CEO

NEW YORK (ICIS)–US regulatory policies are proliferating in a power vacuum and holding the chemical industry back, adding roadblocks to the government’s own sustainability agenda, said the CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The US chemical industry enjoys major structural advantages – a positive tax climate, energy abundance and over $1 trillion in stimulus from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the CHIPS and Science Act (semiconductors) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, he said. “There are tremendous opportunities for us. However, some government policies being put forth are holding us back – for example, in permitting and regulatory overreach. And then throw in some overzealous billionaires on top of that and we have a toxic cocktail,” said ACC CEO Chris Jahn at a meeting of the Societe de Chimie Industrielle in New York. The trade group is not opposed to regulation itself but is focused on “smart regulation”, he added. REGULATORS FILL VACUUM LEFT BY CONGRESSWith a highly divided and dysfunctional Congress that “does not legislate often anymore”, there has been an explosion of regulatory activity. In the last 20 years, the number of regulations on the chemical industry has roughly doubled, he pointed out. “Congress leaves a vacuum, regulators fill it,” said Jahn, who added that regulatory burdens have increased across all sectors, from manufacturing to energy to banking. Tracking regulatory activity under each of the last three Presidents from Inauguration Day to 12 May in the third year of their first term (12 May 2023 for Biden), the costs associated with final rules implemented were $363.6 billion under Biden, far outpacing the $6.0 billion under Trump and $213.3 billion under Obama, according to the ACC using government figures. “Specifically for the US chemical industry, there are 13 regulations in the queue right now with a cost to the economy of $7 billion annually, according to the administration’s own numbers,” said Jahn. “That has the potential, if this goes forward, of limiting access to essential materials… This can impact inflation and economic growth, and perhaps more importantly, impact our ability to compete with China,” said Jahn. “The US is now the second largest chemical producer in the world, but China is three times bigger. And so this helps our competitors overseas if we continue down this path,” he added. ACC CAMPAIGN TO ‘CONNECT THE DOTS’The ACC aims to advance its campaign “Chemistry Creates, America Competes” in this election year, targeting 12 battleground states. The focus is to educate regulators and legislators on just how vital the industry is to the government’s key initiatives, he noted. “We are in the ‘connecting the dots’ business. What I mean by that is that there is not a single person at EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), at OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), at Commerce who’s really worried about the impact of these regulations,” said Jahn. “They’re so narrowly focused on looking at the specific chemical, the specific air issue, the specific water issue, that they do not think at all about the real world impact of their actions,” he added. FIVE CHEMISTRIES UNDER THREATAs an example, the EPA is looking to restrict or ban five chemistries that go into the manufacture of automobiles and semiconductors, he pointed out. Back in mid-December, the EPA announced that it had started the 12-month prioritization process to determine whether vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), acrylonitrile (ACN), aniline and two other chemicals should be designated as high priority substances. Jahn also pointed to the EPA in April 2023 proposing to tighten standards for chemical plants producing ethylene oxide (EO), chloroprene, benzene, butadiene (BD), ethylene dichloride (EDC) and VCM. EO is used to sterilize over 20 billion pieces of medical equipment per year, he said. “This matters because regulations, once they’re in place, typically do not go away. This can create barriers to entry for small firms and make it harder for larger firms to do business. But really it’s going to kill innovation that would help us tackle the world’s biggest challenges,” said Jahn. For the five chemicals under review, the process will take years with no decision in the next 2-4 years, he said. “The good thing for us is that we’ve learned what the EPA is looking for – the data, the information they need. We have a better feel for what can be helpful to them in the process, and they’ve learned to, so maybe that accelerates things a little bit. But this will be years and years of evaluation before any decision is made,” said Jahn. UP AGAINST BEYOND PETROCHEMICALSThe ACC is going up against a number of groups being funded by Beyond Petrochemicals, a group launched in September 2022 with $85 million in funding from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation that aims to block the expansion of more than 120 proposed petrochemical and plastics projects concentrated in Louisiana, Texas and the Ohio River Valley, and work to establish stricter rules for existing plants. “If Mayor Bloomberg really cared about climate and really wanted to do something about that, we would make more [chemicals] in the US – not less. We are cleaner than anywhere else in the world and more efficient,” said Jahn, who also pointed out that Beyond Petrochemicals is also against advanced or chemical recycling of plastics. In an October 2023 report by Beyond Petrochemicals and International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), they called chemical recycling a “dangerous deception” that in addition to decades of failure, produces large quantities of hazardous waste, releases toxic air pollution, threatens environmental justice and contributes to climate change. “What [Beyond Petrochemicals] is doing is giving this money to local groups to make it appear as if it is a grassroots effort – that these people are coming out of the woodwork and trying to address this on a local basis. These are hand-to-mouth organizations that he is now turbocharging with his money to drive his agenda,” said Jahn. The ACC is countering this with its “Chemistry Creates, America Competes” campaign launched in September 2023. “So far. I’d like to think we’ve been very successful. This Bloomberg effort has been going on for over a year, and not one single member of the ACC has had a permit impacted by their initiative,” said Jahn. The ACC aims to work with the administration and the EPA to partner on “smart regulations”. “We don’t have to ban everything, we don’t have to regulate to zero. We can do things to protect the environment but also produce the materials we need in the US,” said Jahn. The ACC plans to activate people in 12 key battleground states that will determine the next presidency, and run political advertising campaigns to push back against over-regulation. EU DE-INDUSTRIALIZATIONThe ACC CEO pointed to the EU and the de-industrialization taking place there as a result of higher energy costs and increasing regulations as a cautionary tale. “They have done this to themselves. They have driven up their cost of energy, driven [down chemical production] and that’s not coming back,” said Jahn. “We’ve seen how this movie ends, so we have to make sure we don’t go down that track. If we want to make more things in this country rather than in China and avoid the fate of Europe, we need a more thoughtful approach,” he added. Even if there is a change in government after the presidential election in November, there will still be policy risk, the ACC CEO said. “For example, if Trump were to win, you would just see the pressure we face in Washington just go to the state level. We’re still going to have those policy challenges,” said Jahn. Focus article by Joseph Chang Thumbnail shows red tape, a symbol of excessive bureaucracy and regulations. Image by Shutterstock. 

19-Jan-2024

Covestro strikes deal with US firm Encina for recycled raw materials supply

LONDON (ICIS)–Covestro has entered an agreement with US firm Encina for the supply of chemically recycled raw materials, the Germany-based polymers producer said on Wednesday. Circular chemicals producer Encina will supply Covestro with benzene and toluene from its world-scale production facility in Point Township, Pennsylvania, now expected online at the end of 2027. The feedstocks will be derived from end-of-life plastics and will meet ISCC PLUS (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) standard. Covestro will use the feedstocks to produce methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI). The benzene can also be used for the synthesis of phenol and acetone. "The ability to source raw materials from used plastics for the manufacture of our products makes a decisive contribution to realizing our vision of a circular economy," said Thorsten Dreier, the company’s chief technology officer.

17-Jan-2024

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