ICIS Ethylene price reports are covered weekly in Asia, Europe and US and also daily in Asia. Reports include analysis and market intelligence on contract and spot prices, margins, production issues, upstream and downstream news and any other influencing factor that is impacting price movements at that given time. In addition to weekly reports there are also margin reports for each region.
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Updated to Q1 2019
Supply could remain ample amid downstream turnarounds and following a capacity expansion in South Korea. Several producers in southeast Asia will be in a long position as their downstream units and customers will take their plants off line for maintenance in the first quarter. South Korea’s Lotte Chemical is likely to increase its exports in line with higher production at its expanded Yeosu cracker that reached full operations in early January.
China’s downstream activity will slow down in the second half of January and the first half of February, amid the Lunar New Year lull. The outlook for March will depend on the health of the China economy, which is uncertain due to the ongoing US-China trade tensions. Import demand will see some support from a 200,000 tonne/year standalone ethylene oxide (EO) unit that commenced commercial operations in late December.
European ethylene supply is long but preparations by producers and consumers alike to cover the start of a fairly heavy cracker maintenance season could reduce the surpluses currently being seen. Similarly, any firming in upstream crude and naphtha could support improved pricing and demand in Asia and therefore also encourage export opportunities. Demand is traditionally higher in the first quarter than in the previous one so in theory the supply and demand balance should tighten up as it progresses through the January to March period, and then the planned maintenance turnarounds will get under way in earnest.
European ethylene demand is expected to pick up in the first quarter as is usual following the year-end de-stocking period but players are cautious amid opposing factors. Preparations to cover a fairly heavy cracker turnaround season could heighten demand on the one hand but on the other, there could be detrimental impacts from new US polyethylene (PE) capacities amid a backdrop of general demand uncertainty regarding the US-China trade war.
US ethylene supply is expected to expand in the first quarter amid the start-up of several crackers. A previously idled cracker began start-up procedures in late 2018, with full production expected during the first quarter of 2019. Three more crackers are expected to start up in early 2019. If none are delayed, ethylene production in the first quarter would expand by about 3m tonnes/year. Comparatively, the US had added about 3m tonnes/year of ethylene capacity in 2018.
US ethylene demand is expected to increase in the first quarter following the commissioning of a new downstream polyethylene (PE) unit in late 2018, with full production expected in 2019. Other downstream units, including another PE unit, are expected to start up at that complex following the start-up of a new cracker in early 2019. Demand for US ethylene exports remains limited due to limited export capacity, as the US has only one small ethylene terminal.
We offer the following regional Ethylene analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Ethylene marketplace.
News & analysis
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Ethylene is the starting point for so many chemicals that have such an impact on our daily lives from polyethylene (PE) used in packaging, pipes through to ethylene glycol (EG) used in polyester and antifreeze.
Europe’s ethylene landscape has been more fluid and dynamic over the past two years than ever before. The advent of low oil prices in Q4 2014 led to record cracker margins, strong demand, and increased operating rates, which in turn was considered a factor in the unprecedented number of production problems in 2015.
Prices usually track crude oil and naphtha market developments very closely but the supply and demand situation can play a large part in determining contract and spot prices because of the challenges inherent in producing, transporting and consuming a gas.
European contract prices hit a bottom of €810/tonne in March 2016 but have been on a steady uptrend for the most part since then, gaining 16% largely on the back of a string of planned – and sometimes unplanned – cracker production issues.
European spot price developments over the past year have been tumultuous, falling about 21% in the first quarter, rising again by almost 30%, and then settling back as supply has eased
Ethylene is a colourless, odourless, extremely flammable compressed gas. It is slightly soluble in water and soluble in liquid hydrocarbons. It reacts with strong oxidants causing fire and is anexplosion hazard..
Ethylene Asia Margin Report Methodology
This document is intended to provide methodology support for customers receiving the ICIS Weekly Margin – Ethylene Asia report.
Ethylene China Margin Report Methodology
This document is intended to provide methodology support for customers receiving the ICIS Weekly Margin – Ethylene China report.
Ethylene Europe Margin Report Methodology
This document is intended to provide methodology support for customers receiving the ICIS Weekly Margin –Ethylene Europe report.
Ethylene US Margin Report Methodology
The main method of ethylene manufacture is by the thermal cracking of hydrocarbons. Both gaseous and liquid hydrocarbon feedstocks are used in the US, so this report examines two typical models.
Ethylene is a colourless, odourless, extremely flammable compressed gas with a faintly pleasant odour. It is slightly soluble in water and soluble in liquid hydrocarbons. It reacts with strong oxidants causing fire and explosion hazard.
Ethylene is mainly used to make polyethylene (PE). Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) mainly go into film applications such as food and non-food packaging, shrink and stretch film, and non-packaging uses. High density polyethylene (HDPE) is used primarily in blow moulding and injection moulding applications such as containers, drums, household goods, caps and pallets. HDPE can also be extruded into pipes for water, gas and irrigation, and film for refuse sacks, carrier bags and industrial lining.
Other major uses are ethylene oxide (EO), ethylene glycol (EG), vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and styrene.
Other derivatives include linear alpha olefins (LAO), detergent alcohols and plasticiser alcohols, vinyl acetate monomer (VAM), and various intermediates such as ethyl acetate and ethyl acrylate.
Ethylene is produced commercially by the steam cracking of a wide range of hydrocarbon feedstocks.
In Europe and Asia, ethylene is obtained mainly from cracking naphtha, gasoil and condensates. The cracking of ethane and propane is primarily carried out in the US, Canada and the Middle East.
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