Caustic soda

Gain an in-depth market view with industrial and economic data  

Discover the factors influencing caustic soda markets

The shift to online shopping has increased demand for packaging paper and the caustic soda used to make it. The trend for lightweighting vehicles has increased demand for aluminium and for caustic soda, which is used to refine alumina from bauxite. It is also used in a number of chemical and refinery processes.

As the most-used export benchmark in the USA/Latin America, ICIS monitors key industries and projects, and the growth trends that will keep you ahead of the market.

ICIS covers key economic and industrial data, including export volumes and key trade flows, any changes in duties and tariffs. We analyse the influence of other regional markets, provide online database access for plant outages, production data, and price history, and monitor key demand sectors, including alumina, chemicals, refining, and pulp and paper production.

Our editors glean timely market information across each market, with comprehensive input from producers, buyers, traders, brokers and regulators.

Learn about our solutions for caustic soda

Pricing, news and analysis

Maximise profitability in uncertain markets with ICIS’ full range of solutions for caustic soda, including current and historic pricing, forecasts, supply and demand data, news and analysis.

Data solutions

Learn about Insight, Hindsight and Foresight, our dedicated commodity solutions accessible through our subscriber platform, ICIS ClarityTM or Data as a Service channels.

Caustic soda news

DuPont flags $60 million in dis-synergies from break-up, assures on PFAS liabilities

HOUSTON (ICIS)–DuPont expects about $60 million in dis-synergies from its break-up into three independent publicly traded companies, CEO Ed Breen and CFO Lori Koch told analysts in a conference call on Thursday. The US specialty chemicals and materials company announced late on Wednesday that it plans to separate its electronics and water businesses into two publicly traded companies while the existing DuPont, dubbed “New DuPont”, will continue as a diversified industrial company. The dis-synergies were largely related to insurance, audit fees, leadership and boards, that is, “public company stand-up costs”, Koch said. The dis-synergies were “not a huge number” and would be across all three companies, she said. As for separation costs, those are estimated at $700 million, with the biggest cost items being IT separation and tax, legal and audit work, she said. DIVESTMENT NOT RULED OUT While DuPont is pursuing spin-offs and is not running a parallel M&A processes for electronics and water, it does not entirely rule out divesting them. “If somebody wants to call and propose something, we are going to listen to it,” Breen said in response to analysts' questions. He also said that the water business, which is relatively smaller, may be spun off before electronics. The timing for the separations is good as markets are coming out of destocking cycles, Breen noted. Especially in semiconductors, “we are going into a real upcycle”, he added. DuPont has been working on the separation for about six months and expects to complete it within the coming 18-24 months, he said. The relatively long completion timeline is mainly due to tax matters as DuPont intends to execute tax-free separations, he said. In some of the countries where DuPont operating, a separated business must be run for a full 12 months before it gets tax-free status, Breen said. New DuPont, with annual sales of $6.6 billion, and the electronic spin-off (sales: $4.0 billion), are expected to have investment-grade balance sheets whereas the smaller water business (sales: $1.5 billion), may not, Koch said. PFAS As for DuPont’s liabilities for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), those will be allocated between the three companies pro rata, based on their earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the last year before the spin-off, Breen said. The amount of PFAS liabilities may not be that large as DuPont expects to “make great progress” on settling claims by the time the spin-offs will be completed in 18-24 months, he said. BREEN’S NEW ROLE Breen will step down as CEO on 1 June, to be succeeded by Koch. However, he will continue as full-time executive chairman of DuPont’s board of directors, focusing on the separations, including the appointment of the spin-off companies’ boards and the hiring of their management teams. Breen would not rule out that he may join the boards of the electronics and water spin-offs but added that a decision has yet to be made. PROFILES OF THE THREE COMPANIES' MARKETS New DuPont, focused on healthcare, advanced mobility, and safety & protection: Electronics, focused on semi-conductors and interconnect solutions: Raw materials used by the electronic business include, among others, monomers, pigments and dyes, styrenic block copolymers, copper foil, filler alumina, nickel, silver, palladium, photoactive compounds, polyester and other polymer films, polyethylene (PE) resins, polyurethane (PU) resins, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds and silicones, according to DuPont's website. Water, focused on reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and ultra filtration: Raw materials used by the water business include, among others, methyl methacrylate (MMA), styrene, polysulfone, high density polyethylene (HDPE), polyethylene (PE), aniline, calcium chloride, caustic and sulfuric acid, according to DuPont's website. DuPont's shares traded at $78.44/share, down 0.13%, at 11:00 local time on the New York Stock Exchange. With additional reporting by Al Greenwood Thumbnail photo source: DuPont

23-May-2024

Brazil’s Braskem Alagoas disaster claims could rise; Senate issues damning report

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Six years after the disaster at Braskem’s rock salt mines in Brazil’s state of Alagoas, the polymers major could continue facing legal cases which could dent its cash flow, according to analysts at US credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch downgraded the company’s credit rating in December 2023 and placed it on what it called ‘Negative Watch’. This week, following a very damning report issued by Brazil’s Senate following a public enquiry into the Alagoas disaster, the agency’s analysts said that Braskem is likely to face increase costs related to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) challenges. That would add, they said, to the expected poor spreads for global petrochemicals in general, which would be here to stay for at least the remaining of 2024. “Increased ESG risks and potential new claims associated with the geological event in Alagoas could worsen the company’s credit profile,” said Marcelo Pappiani, a Fitch analyst covering Braskem. Fitch said Braskem has since 2019 disbursed approximately Brazilian reais (R) 10.0 billion ($2.0 billion) on relocations, compensation, the closure and monitoring of salt cavities, and environment and other technical matters. A spokesperson for Braskem said to ICIS on Thursday the company would continue collaborating with the authorities in their enquiries about the Alagoas disaster but did not comment on the specifics of the Senate’s report. “Braskem reiterates it was always willing to collaborate with the public enquiry, promptly collaborating providing all the information and measures requested,” said the spokesperson. “The company remains available to collaborate with the authorities, as it has always been.” NEVER-ENDING DISASTERLate on Wednesday, the Brazilian Senate published the final report after its public enquiry into the Alagoas disaster in 2018 which caused thousands to be displaced from their homes in Maceio, the capital’s state. The report is to be voted by the Senate’s plenary on 22 May. Braskem's rock salt mining caused the displacement of the subsoil; the company used the rock salt for production of caustic soda and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), among others. The 765-page report was highly damning for Braskem, with vice president Marcelo Cerqueira and other seven people accused of environmental crimes as the company’s activities resulted in the geological event. Nearly 15,000 households had to be relocated, and some of Maceio’s neighborhoods evacuated in 2018 remain ghost areas to this day. The report was not only damning for Braskem but also for Brazil’s authorities, especially the National Mining Agency (ANM) as well as the Ministry of Mines and Energy for failing to implement the controls which are required. THE GROUND KEEPS MOVINGTo make matters worse for Braskem, just last December there were further movements in the subsoil which made residents and authorities fear another geological event, a prospect which in the end did not materialize. Those recent events, as well as this week’s report, keep bringing back the Alagoas disaster into the spotlight and seem set to keep haunting the company for several quarters to come, said the Fitch analysts. “We believe the environmental and ecological impacts of the salt mine collapse in the context of sinking land in Alagoas could damage Braskem’s financial position … Uncertainty about current and upcoming lawsuits is high, with negative outcomes potentially pressuring cash flow and adversely impacting the company’s financial results,” they said. “The company could also face social impacts from new claims and reparation costs to victims and neighboring communities, in addition to the 14,446 families relocated to other areas.” The Alagoas liabilities are casting such a long shadow for Braskem that Abu Dhabi’s energy major ADNOC, who seemed the strongest candidate to acquire Novonor’s controlling stake in Braskem, walked away earlier in May, reportedly on the back of those liabilities. “We believe the prospect of Novonor selling its stake in Braskem hit an impasse after the December 2023 salt mine collapse, with ongoing uncertainty regarding the repercussions of the geological event,” said Fitch. Neither the Senate report nor Fitch’s credit rating warning seemed to dent investors’ interest on Braskem’s stock on Thursday though, with shares trading nearly 1.45% higher on the Sao Paulo stock exchange Bovespa by midday local time. Following ADNOC's announcement it was throwing the towel on Braskem, Braskem’s shares opened the next trading session down more than 14%.

16-May-2024

LOGISTICS: Global container rates surge, chem tanker rates mixed, Panama Canal wait times ease

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Global rates for shipping containers are surging, liquid chemical tanker rates were mixed, and wait times at the Panama Canal have eased, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES Container rates surged this week after rising last week for the first time since January amid general rate increases (GRIs) implemented because of rising demand and as continued Red Sea diversions have overall capacity fully deployed. Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc said during a Q1 earnings conference call that demand is trending toward the higher end of its guidance. Average global rates surged by 16% over the week, according to supply chain advisors Drewry and as shown in the following chart. Meanwhile, rates from Shanghai to the US West Coast jumped by 18%, and rates from Shanghai to the East Coast soared by 16%, as shown in the following chart. Drewry expects freight rates ex-China to continue increasing in the upcoming week amid a huge demand spike and tight capacity. Capacity is growing from newly built ships, according to international freight platform ShipHub, who said that 2.83m 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container ship capacity is on order for 2024, after 2.34m TEUs were ordered in 2023. That is almost double the capacity added in 2021 and 2022, which were both around 1.1m TEUs. Shipping analysts Linerlytica said that over-capacity concerns are on the backburner with containership diversions to the Cape route effectively removing more than 7% of the total fleet. Rates from North China to the US Gulf were flat this week after spiking the previous week, as shown in the following chart from ocean and freight rate analytics firm Xeneta. Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. LIQUID CHEM TANKER RATES US chemical tanker freight rates assessed by ICIS were mostly unchanged but fell from the US Gulf (USG) to ARA. From the USG to Rotterdam, there are bits of part cargo space still available for April. This trade lane has been mostly quiet over the last few weeks. If this trend continues, this route could face further downward pressure. On the other hand, from the USG to the Caribbean, rates have risen slightly since last week leaving the market overall mixed. Methanol continues to be active out of this market to various destinations. From the USG to Brazil, space remains tight despite the slow market as only a handful of indications being seen in the market.  Space is available for H1 May out of Columbia and H2 May out of the USG. Although ICIS does not assess spot rates from the USG to the Mediterranean, this trade lane has continued to tighten up, with several cargoes of Glycols, Caustic and Veg Oil fixed. There is limited space for May which may likely cause rates to further tighten, although there could be some working space for June. PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked vessels ready for transit fell for both northbound and southbound transits this week, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times a week ago were 4.4 days for northbound traffic and 6.5 days for southbound vessels. The PCA will increase the number of slots available for Panamax vessels to transit the waterway beginning 16 May and will add another slot for Neopanamax vessels on 1 June based on the present and projected water levels in Gatun Lake. PORT OF BALTIMORE The Key Bridge Response Unified Command (UC) is scheduled to use precision cuts made with small charges to remove a large section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge wreckage from on top of the container ship Dali, which struck the bridge on 26 March and caused its collapse. Source: Key Bridge Response 2024 The exact time of the precision cuts will depend on multiple environmental and operational factors. The closing of the port did not have a significant impact on the chemicals industry as chemicals make up only about 4% of total tonnage that moves through the port, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The ACC said less than 1% of all chemicals involved in waterborne commerce, both domestic and trade volumes, pass through Baltimore. Additional reporting by Kevin Callahan

10-May-2024

India’s Mundra Petrochemical taps Nuberg to build chlor-alkali plant

MUMBAI (ICIS)–Indian producer Mundra Petrochemicals Ltd has awarded engineering services company Nuberg EPC a contract to build its new 2,200 tonne/day chlor-alkali project in the western Gujarat state. “The project entails construction of the caustic soda plant within the 1m tonnes/year green polyvinyl chloride (PVC) project in Mundra, Gujarat,” Nuberg said in a statement on 11 April. Nuberg expects to complete the project within 15 months, without disclosing financial details of the contract. Nuberg EPC is a global engineering and turnkey project management company based in Noida in the northern Uttar Pradesh state. Mundra Petrochemical is a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd, which is owned by major Indian conglomerate Adani Group. The caustic soda project forms part of the Adani Group’s 2m tonne/year greenfield PVC project in Mundra. In March 2023, the company halted construction of the PVC project as it worked to secure project funding. A consortium of banks led by state-owned State Bank of India had agreed in July last year to finance a significant part of the company’s PVC project, according to media reports. The project involves setting up a 2m tonnes/year PVC plant in two phases with the first phase expected to be commissioned in the fiscal year ending March 2026.

12-Apr-2024

Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 5 April. NEWS Mexico’s automotive output falls nearly 13% in March Mexico’s automotive sector output fell by 12.75% in March, month on month, to just over 300,000 units, the country’s statistical office Inegi said on Wednesday. Sanitation framework, nascent LatAm lithium industry keeping Brazil’s chloralkali afloat – Abiclor Brazil’s chlorine and caustic soda sectors have kept afloat in better health than the wider chemicals industry as sanitation plans and new lithium exploitations across Latin America keep demand high, according to the director general at the country’s trade group Abiclor. Brazil’s chemicals, industrial output falls in February Brazil’s chemicals output fell in February by 3.5%, month on month, one of the largest falls among the subsectors measured, the country’s statistical office IBGE said on Wednesday. Petrobras ‘proactively’ engaging with Federal auditor about tolling contract with Unigel Petrobras continues to “clarify in a timely manner” all the information requested by the Federal auditor regarding its tolling contract with Unigel, a spokesperson for the Brazilian energy major said to ICIS on Tuesday. Brazil’s Unigel postpones Q4 results amid debt restructuring Unigel has postponed the publication of its Q4 and 2023 financial results as its debt restructuring is ongoing, the Brazilian chemicals and fertilizers producer said on Tuesday. MOVES: Brazil’s Unipar appoints Alexandre Jerussalmy as CFO Unipar has appointed Alexandre Jerussalmy as CFO and investor relations officer, effective immediately, the Brazilian chemicals producer said on Tuesday. Colombia’s manufacturing slows down in March on lower sales Colombia’s manufacturing output growth slowed down in March on the back of lower sales, although it marked its third month in expansion territory, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. Brazil's manufacturing March output healthy on new orders, fueling job creation Brazil’s manufacturing continued expanding at pace in March on the back of a healthy new order book, prompting firms to increase workforces, S&P Global said on Monday. Mexico’s manufacturing steady in March but subdued US demand causes concern Mexico’s manufacturing output stayed stable in March but firms are getting increasingly worried about lower demand from the US, the key market for the country’s export-intensive manufacturers, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. PRICING Lat Am PP domestic prices down in Argentina, Mexico on lower US PGP spot prices, weak demand Domestic polypropylene (PP) prices dropped in Argentina and Mexico on the back of lower US spot propylene prices and weak demand. In other Latin American countries, prices remained steady. LatAm PE international prices steady to lower on lower US export offers International polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed as steady to lower on the back of lower US export offers. Ethanol prices in Brazil experiencing surges during April The prices of hydrous ethanol surged during the initial week of April, propelled by consistent strong sales in Brazil. Unigel to raise PS April prices in Brazil Unigel is seeking an 11% price increase on all grades of polystyrene (PS) sold in Brazil starting on 1 April, according to a customer letter. Innova seeks April PS price increase in Brazil Innova is seeking a real (R) 1,000/tonne ($200/tonne) price increase, excluding local taxes, on all grades of polystyrene (PS) sold in Brazil starting on 1 April, according to a customer letter.

08-Apr-2024

Sanitation framework, nascent LatAm lithium industry keeping Brazil’s chloralkali afloat – Abiclor

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s chlorine and caustic soda sectors have kept afloat in better health than the wider chemicals industry as sanitation plans and new lithium exploitations across Latin America keep demand high, according to the director general at the country’s trade group Abiclor. Abiclor's Milton Rego added, however, that the competitive challenges the chemicals industry faces in Brazil are common to both the parent industry and its chlorine subsector: high input costs, which make the whole industry suffer, infrastructure challenges and in the past two decades, fierce competition from China, not only in chemicals but for nearly all manufactured goods. However, given chlorine’s specific characteristics and its highly dangerous nature, shipments are more difficult, isolating the sector from the abundant, cheap imports other chemical products have had to face up to. This is well reflected in the operating rates in 2023: caustic soda and chlorine sectors averaged 70%, which is a low rate but higher than the overall chemicals industry’s at around 65%, according to figures from the Brazilian chemicals trade group Abiquim. WATER (FROM THE FAUCET) FOR THE PEOPLEBrazil will need a lot of chlorine in coming years. Despite all its natural wealth and the abundance of fresh water, around 33 million people in the 220-million strong country still do not have access to sanitized water yet. To tackle this, the previous Administration passed in 2020 the Reformulation of the Sanitation Legal Framework – or Novo Marco Legal do Saneamiento in Portuguese. Mostly through public-private partnerships, the plan envisages that by 2033 all Brazilians will be able to open the tap without fear of bacteria – and that means chlorine. Large Brazilian chemicals companies such as Unipar are tapping into the Marco Legal to expand their operations, in this case with a new chlorine plant in the northern state of Bahia. The largely de-industrialized and poorer Brazilian north is where still many cannot open the tap without fear of being infected. “The Marco de Saneamiento has some very clever points. On the one hand, it set the targets while improved the states’ ability to implement public-private projects, improving how they achieve the targets,” said Rego. “On the other, if the states do not achieve the targets, they could be penalized by not receiving the funds set up in the Marco for its development.” While the Marco de Saneamiento is set to place Brazil at the forefront in Latin America when it comes to sanitized water in people’s houses, some of the country’s perennial problems are still casting a shadow, said Rego. Namely, leaks in the water infrastructure as well as theft are still a cause for concern. Those two factors are also the ones that, despite all the sanitation work behind, make sanitized water still not suitable for drinking when it gets to Brazilian households. Even in the well-developed Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for instance, those who drink water from the faucet do so after filtering it. A far cry from the European systems, where water is safe to drink straight. “There have not been enough investments in keeping the water infrastructure systems up to date. The Marco de Saneamiento touches on the states’ responsibility in keeping the network functioning properly,” said Rego. “But no matter all the good intentions and plans to do so, when you get all those external factors [theft and leaks in the old networks, mostly] denting the quality of the water infrastructure network, it makes achieving the final goal harder.” CAUSTIC SODA: 3 MILLION DEMAND, 1.5 MILLION OUTPUTConsidering how chemicals producer have been besieged for much of the past two years by cheap imports coming into Brazil, the caustic soda situation may look enviable. Operating rates of 70% are not the panacea, Rego concurred, given the enormous spare capacity, but when compared to the wider industry, it is a healthier figure. In fact, Rego said the sector is already at pre-pandemic levels in terms of rates; a far cry from the wider industry, where operating rates continue to fall as global oversupplies for most chemicals keep denting domestic producers’ output. Brazil’s caustic soda output stands at around 1.5 million tonnes/year, but the country’s demand is at around 3 million tonnes/year. However, geography and industrial strengths play a part here. On one hand, most of the caustic soda imported into Brazil comes from the US via the Gulf Coast, and it is shipped to the northern states where aluminum production is strong. On the other hand, most of the 1.5 million tonnes produced domestically are produced in the south and serve the industrious southern states such as Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. “Our caustic soda deficit is mostly covered by the US: from the Gulf Coast to the northern Brazilian ports the freight costs are not too high, and it is perfectly placed to serve the high demand from the aluminum sector,” said Rego. “We have become too accustomed in Brazil to talk about our industrial decadence and how that could be reversed, but the aluminum sector, for instance, remains strong and not only cater for Brazilian demand: it is also a sector managing to export to overseas markets.” Rego said the Brazilian chloralkali sector can also look with optimism and the booming lithium sector in Latin America. As of now, Brazilian producers are exporting to Argentina and Bolivia caustic soda and derivative hydrochloric acid (HCl) for the extraction of lithium, a key component for electric batteries as the world seeks to electrify transport. “We are confident those exports are set to expand to other Latin American markets,” said Rego. THE COUNTRY OF THE FUTURE, STUCK IN THE PRESENTRego’s fascination for how Brazil went from industrial superpower in the 1960s and 1970s to the current nearly-permanent industrial crisis – with agriculture and services coping much of the growth in the past few years – captivates the imagination of the listener. One should not forget the mantra which became a joke: in the 1950s and 1960s Brazil was ‘the country of the future’ and it did show in things like building a new capital from scratch in just 10 years or the fast-paced urbanization in places like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro states, which had a great damaging effect on the environment. As an example: in a tropical paradise like Brazil, water is everywhere. Sao Paulo’s two rivers – Pinheiros and Tiete – are just a fraction of the several waterways that ran through the city before urbanization: they were all channeled and tunneled to make way for roads above them. Back to industry. The Brazil of the future stayed in the past. The 1980s economic crisis put the country on its knees, and China’s renaissance from the 1990s made the rest, according to Rego. “China increases sharply the competitiveness of most of its industrial products. But, as it has been said several times before, the logic in China’s economic system is not a capitalistic logic, and that has reverberations globally,” said Rego. “Globally, and locally in Brazil: China’s ascend meant Brazil’s descent, as much higher production costs here made our industrial goods less competitive. Funnily enough, this is also affecting Europe, especially in the past two years after war in Ukraine broke out and energy prices became very high.” Therefore, the US with its own shale gas revolution, the Middle East, and Asia are now the most competitive industrial regions, said Rego. Brazil’s prowess in agriculture, he added, cannot make the country forget that a healthy economy requires a strong industry, able to cater for domestic demand and also able to export. That is where Brazil’s interesting history stands at the moment. A new industrial plan recently presented by the government could help tackle some issues, said Rego, but there have been many industrial plans before and they failed to lift up industry’s prospects. Regarding chemicals, Abiquim used throughout 2023 an apocalyptic language to describe the state of the industry, warning the survival of several chemicals chains in Brazil was at risk. Rego preferred to describe Abiquim’s “necessary” lobbying as “eloquent” – but at the end of the day, the story is the same: with current high input costs, chemicals in Brazil are set to have a harder time than peers in other major economies. Front page picture: Promotional image of the Marco Legal do Saneamiento Source: Brazilian government Interview article by Jonathan Lopez

04-Apr-2024

India’s Epigral commissions 45,000 tonne/year chlorinated PVC resin line

MUMBAI (ICIS)–India’s Epigral Ltd has commissioned its 45,000 tonne/year chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) resin line at its facility in Dahej in the western Gujarat state. “Epigral now has a total CPVC resin capacity of 75,000 tonnes/year, positioning it as the largest CPVC resin facility in the world at a single location,” it said in a disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 3 April. Epigral, formerly known as Meghmani Finechem Ltd, is a leading integrated manufacturer of chemicals in India, producing caustic soda, chlorine, caustic potash, chloromethanes, CPVC and hydrogen peroxide at its Dahej facility. “With this [CPVC] expansion, we are advancing towards our goal of becoming a multi-product company, geared up to enhance contribution from the derivatives and specialty chemicals segments,” Epigral chairman & managing director Maulik Patel said. The increased capacity will help the company meet rising global and domestic demand for CPVC resins, it said, adding that the increased capacity will also help reduce India’s reliance on imports of the material. Domestic demand for CPVC currently stands at around 250,000 tonnes/year and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10-13%, a company source said. Separately, the company expects to commission its 35,000 tonne/year CPVC compound facility before June 2024. India currently imports its CPVC resin and CPVC compound requirements, and the new plant will help Epigral cater to domestic demand for both products. Meanwhile, the company also expects to commission its chlorotoluene and downstream value chain facility in the current calendar year, the company source said. Once operational, the chlorotoluene facility will produce intermediates for manufacturing pharmaceutical and agrochemical active ingredients. “Right now, India imports its chlorotoluene requirement completely from China, Japan, and Europe. We expect to cater to custom manufacturing companies that are currently importing this raw material,” the company source added.

04-Apr-2024

LOGISTICS: No impact yet on shipping rates after Baltimore bridge collapse; Asia-US container rates fall further

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is wreaking havoc on logistics and freight movements in the immediate region, but the incident has yet to have any impact on shipping rates, and costs for shipping containers from Asia to the US continue to fall, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. PORT OF BALTIMORE The Port of Baltimore remains closed to all vessel traffic following the bridge collapse early Tuesday morning. The unified command (UC) said on-scene crews continue to assess and monitor for spilled oils and hazardous substances to prevent further discharge or release into the marine environment as 14 containers on the Dali that were holding hazardous materials were impacted during the collision. The chemical components assessed were soap products, perfume products, or not otherwise specified resins, the UC said. Salvage efforts have begun but will take some time and according to the local US Coast Guard authorities the port is officially closed for the near future. Some of the chemical products most likely impacted are caustic soda, veg oil, base oils, ethanol, biodiesel and a variety of others. South African producer Sasol told ICIS that a terminal inside the port with the company’s name has not been used by the company since it opened its major facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Specialty chemical producer WR Grace has a terminal in the port, according to a map of the port on the Maryland state government’s website. The company did not immediately respond on Friday to questions about the terminal. The port is one of the largest in the US for auto imports and exports. Global shipping major MSC is advising customers that passage to and from the port will not be established “for weeks if not months”. Containers already on the water will be rerouted and discharged at an alternate port where they will be made available for pick-up upon completion of the usual import documentary procedure, MSC said. Customers with containers at the origin, whether gated in or booked but not yet gated, need to contact the origin booking office immediately to decide whether they wish for the cargo to be carried to the alternate ports in the US. Judah Levine, head of research at online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos, said more vessels arriving at alternative ports, or longer port calls as vessels offload more containers, could cause some congestion at those ports, meaning delays for shippers. “But ocean freight is now in its slow season between Lunar New Year and peak season that typically starts in June or July,” Levine said. “And at the moment there is no significant congestion at any of the major East Coast ports.” CONTAINER RATES FALL FURTHER Average global rates for shipping containers continue to fall after surging in December when Houthi rebels began attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Shippers began to divert away from the Suez Canal because of the attacks, which added days and sometimes weeks to traditional trade routes and tightened available capacity. Shippers brought all floating capacity online, increased sailing speeds and brought into service newbuilds to help alleviate the situation. Softer overall demand also helped ease stressed supply chains. Average rates and rates from Shanghai to the US and Europe have fallen steadily since the first of the year according to supply chain advisors Drewry and as shown in the following charts. Levine said the Baltimore closure could put some upward pressure on rates but that he expects it would be temporary. Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. LIQUID TANKER RATES STEADY While many tanker shipping routes from the Americas remained subdued with no significant price changes, the Transatlantic eastbound route remains firm as there continues to be a lot of interest seen in the market this week, although space remains tight. On the bunker side, fuel prices have been steadily decreasing as well on the back of softer energy prices; however, week over week remain relatively mixed. PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked vessels ready for transit edged higher this week, according to the PCA's vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times last week were 1.2 days for northbound traffic and 1.4 days for southbound traffic. Additional reporting by Kevin Callahan Thumbnail image shows the Dali and the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, from www.keybridgeresponse2024.com

29-Mar-2024

INSIGHT: Altair Chemical drives for sustainability/performance with focus on renewables

GALLARATE, Italy (ICIS)–The global chlor-alkali market has faced significant change through recent years of economic underperformance, including fluctuations in demand, price volatility, supply chain disruptions, cost reduction measures, market consolidation, and a greater focus on efficiency and innovation. Adapting to these changes has been vitally important for producers to navigate the continued challenging economic environment and to sustain operations. A shift to renewable power for chlor-alkali production is gathering pace as producers seek a more environmentally friendly means of producing chlorine and caustic soda while keeping an eye on costs. Electricity is the main cost element for chlor-alkali producers and can be seen as the major feedstock for plants in which a salt solution is split electrochemically into its component elements. In Italy, Esseco Industrial completed a merger within its industrial group at the start of this year that consolidates its chlor-alkali, caustic potash and hydrochloric acid operations giving it the prospect of capitalising on production, management, logistics and storage synergies. It has merged the activities of Hydrochem, a chlor-alkali production facility in Pieve Vergonte, in the Piemonte region, with Altair Chimica, a caustic potash (KOH) production location in Tuscany. The Hydrochem venture now operates as part of a globally strengthened Esseco Industrial, Roberto Vagheggi, general director of Esseco Industrial and CEO of the company’s chlor-alkali division told ICIS in an interview. Esseco Industrial produces organic and inorganic chemicals and has a turnover of some €700m. It is part of the Esseco Group, a family-run holding with over a century of history, which offers products and services for the organic and inorganic chemistry industry, specializing in sulfur derivatives and chlor-alkali. The corporate merger represents a step in a process started some time ago within Esseco Industrial and an investment of more than €50m. The Pieve Vergonte plant was hit hard by an economic crisis that began in 2019 and has had to be re-launched onto the chlor-alkali market. It faced the significant challenge of moving to membrane production and the elimination of mercury. Previously, in 2011 Esseco Group purchased Saline di Volterra, in Tuscany, its main Italian customer for caustic potash (KOH), the acquisition being an important milestone for the company. The Pieve Vergonte and Saline di Volterra sites have chlorine capacities of 45,000 tonnes/year and 80,000 tonnes thousand tonnes/year respectively. Altair Chimica was one of the first European companies to move to membrane technology and abandon mercury cell production. It signed an agreement with Italy’s Ministry of the Environment and the EU for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Saline di Voltera plant, to eliminate mercury and to reduce electricity consumption and the use of water from a nearby river. A new caustic potash plant, the first of its type, was built from scratch at the site. Vagheggi said that the merger with Hyrdochem has made it possible to streamline all processes for Altair Chemical from production to sales and through to post-sales thanks to new synergies and a renewed dialogue between the two plants. “The objective is to maximize production capacity, strengthen industrial activity under a single organisation, strengthen synergies between plants by sharing both storage management and logistics planning so that processes can be made as efficient as possible sales, offering customers high quality standards,” Vagheggi said. Esseco Industrial is environmentally sustainable, as it mainly uses renewable energy. Two proprietary hydroelectric power plants are operational in the Pieve Vergonte plant, which has allowed the company to exceed 75% use of renewable energy in internal consumption, making the site among the few that can be considered environmentally sustainable of their kind. Esseco Industrial says that it strongly believes in the energy transition. Thanks to a mix that also includes photovoltaic and process steam, the division consumes over 50% green energy and more than 55% energy with zero CO2 emissions. Another significant energy element is the hydrogen produced in Esseco Industrial by electrolysis (using, as mentioned, 50% renewable energy). This in turn, contributes to the decarbonisation of the thermal energy necessary for chemical reactions. Hydrogen is combined with chlorine to produce hydrochloric acid. “Today the company is working on future projects for the production of renewable hydrogen which will complement the hydrogen already produced by the chlorine/soda and chlorine/potash plants” Vagheggi said. Insight by Valentina Cherubin

19-Mar-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 15 March 2024. INSIGHT: Indorama exit from PET feedstock markets to spur China PTA exports By Nurluqman Suratman 15-Mar-24 11:42 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Demand for China’s purified terephthalic acid (PTA) will get a boost as Indorama Ventures Ltd (IVL), a global producer of downstream polyethylene terephthalate (PET), shifts away from expensive integrated operations. INSIGHT: Policies announced in China Two Sessions will impact domestic petchems market in 2024 By Jimmy Zhang 14-Mar-24 23:07 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's Two Sessions earlier this month – the yearly meetings where its legislature sets laws and its advisory body offers policy recommendations – attracted attention from the market for the growth targets set and announcements on expected future economic development. According to Premier Li Qiang, China's GDP growth target is “around 5.0%”. US outage to boost March Asia-Atlantic spot acetic acid, VAM trades By Hwee Hwee Tan 14-Mar-24 12:26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia-Atlantic spot trades for acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) are expected to increase after supply gaps in the US and Europe emerged following an unexpected plant outage in the US. Asia caustic soda market could be underpinned by snug supply, limited vessel space By Jonathan Chou 13-Mar-24 15:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's liquid caustic soda spot supply may remain snug in the near term, while demand could continue its gradual growth into the second quarter (Q2) of 2024. PODCAST: China Group III base oils market sees supply, demand changes By Whitney Shi 12-Mar-24 15:53 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–In this podcast, ICIS Senior Industry Analyst Whitney Shi and ICIS Assistant Industry Analyst Jady Ma talk about supply and demand changes in China’s Group III base oils market. Saudi Aramco '23 profit falls on softer crude; ’24 focus on downstream growth By Nurluqman Suratman 11-Mar-24 12:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Energy giant Saudi Aramco's net profit in 2023 fell by 24.7% to Saudi riyal (SR) 454.8bn ($121.3bn), weighed by weaker crude oil prices as well as lower refining and chemical margins.

18-Mar-2024

Events and training

Events

Build your networks and grow your business at ICIS’ industry-leading events. Hear from high-profile speakers on the issues, technologies and trends driving commodity markets.

Training

Keep up to date in today’s dynamic commodity markets with expert online and in-person training covering chemicals, fertilizers and energy markets.

Contact us

Partnering with ICIS unlocks a vision of a future you can trust and achieve. We leverage our unrivalled network of chemicals industry experts to deliver a comprehensive market view based on trusted data, insight and analytics, supporting our partners as they transact today and plan for tomorrow.

Get in touch to find out more.

READ MORE