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.
The vast array of information available on these markets can be received in a variety of formats and gives the subscriber confidence in making informed business decisions.
Updated to Q1 2021
Regional output rebounded by H1 February following a production recovery in South Korea and Japan, which were hit by a slew of outages. Chinese supply was supported by capacity growth and delays in integrated downstream start-ups. Southeast Asia’s capacity grew by 960,000 tonnes/year between H2 February and H1 March. Cargoes from the US, however, dwindled from February due to soaring domestic prices and pipeline issues at an export terminal, following a winter storm.
Spot demand from several South Korean and Japanese producers underpinned the market in January due to cracker outages. Chinese restocking activities strengthened after the Lunar New Year holiday, due to a surge in prices across downstream sectors in response to a winter storm that disrupted domestic output in the US. The start-up of non-integrated downstream plants in late-2020 and early 2021 also boosted Chinese demand.
Supply started the year tight following a series of unplanned, short-lived cracker issues alongside the ongoing outages in Sweden and in the UK. Smoother cracker operations and the restart of the Stenungsund cracker in January saw the market well balanced throughout the rest of Q1.
Demand was very healthy. All derivatives sectors pulled hard on ethylene offtake, maximising contractual volumes. Lockdown restrictions appeared to have little to no negative impact. By March, various disruptions from trade flows ex-US due to technical issues slowed some derivative production and together with improved cracker operations, buying appetite for spot tonnes was near non-existent. Pipeline maintenance throughout March also kept activities at a low ebb.
Ethylene supply was long for the first six weeks of the year, despite healthy demand into downstream and overseas markets, on high operating rates. However, mid-February’s winter storm on the Gulf Coast severely disrupted production, affecting around three-quarters of US capacity. Lingering outages and rate reductions dragged on for over a month after the storm had passed, contributing to market tightness and surging prices. Contract prices finished Q1 at their highest levels in over six years.
Demand for principal ethylene derivative polyethylene (PE) into non-durables remained strong in Q1, with the pandemic accelerating an ongoing trend towards more online shopping. Continued elevated demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) was also supported PE consumption. Demand was muted by mid-February’s winter storm on the Gulf Coast, since many downstream plants were affected. However, continued healthy end user consumption forced downstream producers to draw on inventories, eventually compounding demand for ethylene.
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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