Methanol

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Discover the factors influencing methanol markets

Methanol is primarily produced from surplus coal and natural gas and used to produce methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), acetic acid, and formaldehyde. It has many general solvent and antifreeze applications and can be used to fuel internal combustion engines, although it is usually blended with gasoline.

Formaldehyde is used in pressed wood products, disinfectants and adhesives. It is also used to make chemicals for construction, automotive, healthcare and consumer products and applications. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 60% of global consumption of formaldehyde and the construction industry is the largest global consumer by sector.

Market growth is propelled by growing demand for alternative fuel applications and methanol-to-olefins (MTO) technology, but hampered by fluctuating methanol prices.

ICIS provides actionable market news in real time including weekly price updates (daily for Asia). We cover pricing trends, market news, and market fundamentals in each region and our editors in China, Singapore, London, and Houston provide a comprehensive view of the global market.

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2024 and beyond: global chemicals outlook

The global landscape for chemicals has changed significantly, with a lower demand growth expected to persist, however within these challenges and changes lies opportunity for those who adapt.

Methanol news

INSIGHT: Chem M&A outlook brightens amid surge of deal announcements

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Chemical companies have started the first half of 2024 announcing potential sales and separations of several businesses, which could lead up to busy cycle for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Sustainability continues to influence M&A decisions, although it will unlikely lead to any large acquisitions. Private equity firms could play a larger role in M&A despite higher interest rates because financial investors have plenty of money. Electronic materials could be another M&A trend because of government incentives for the semiconductor industry. CHEMS EXPECT MORE M&AMore than half of the chemical executives who participated in a survey expect M&A activity to increase in the next 12-18 months, according to Kearney, a consulting firm that conducts an annual report about deal-making in the industry. By contrast, 18% expect M&A activity to decrease, and 32% expect activity to be roughly stable. The sentiment is more positive than surveys from the past few years, said Andy Walberer, partner and global chemicals lead at global strategy and management consultancy Kearney. He made his comments while discussing Kearney's recent M&A report. Part of that optimism comes from the divestment plans and strategic reviews recently announced by chemical companies, he said. Also, executives at chemical companies are no longer contending with the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent supply-chain disruptions. They have the headspace to think about medium- and long-term strategy, he said. SUSTAINABILITY CONTINUES INFLUENCING DEALSSustainability will unlikely lead to high-dollar deals, but it will still be a noteworthy trend, Walberer said. Chemical companies are scrambling to secure supplies of recycled and renewable feedstock. Chemical executives and Kearney have noted the gap between supply and demand for sustainable feedstock. To secure feedstock, companies have been establishing partnerships or acquiring businesses. Walberer expects that trend to continue. In other cases, chemical companies are making sustainability M&A decisions in response to government incentives and regulations, Walberer said. Kearney has seen some companies divest sections of portfolios because of high carbon emissions, Walberer said. PRIVATE EQUITY HAS PLENTY OF DRY POWDERHigher interest rates have made M&A more challenging for private equity firms because of their traditional reliance on debt-financed acquisitions. That said, private equity firms have built up large stashes of dry powder. They could put that money to work without debt, which has become more expensive because of higher interest rates. At the same time, chemical valuations have fallen. "We see PE very active," Walberer said. Walberer noted that financial investors made up 26% of chemical deals in 2023, up from 7% in 2022 and above the historic range of 15-20%. In particular, private equity firms may acquire some of the infrastructure assets that chemical companies are eager to divest. Dow had expressed interest in selling more of its infrastructure after agreeing to divest its rail assets at six sites in mid-2020. Recent and upcoming carveouts could provide private equity firms with more M&A opportunities. In December 2023, Solvay carved out its specialty business, called Syensqo, from its mostly commodity business. DuPont expects to complete its breakup into three companies in the next 18-24 months. CHANGING OUTLOOK FOR EUROPEEuropean chemical M&A experienced a slowdown because of the spike in energy and feedstock costs that followed the start of the war in Ukraine, according to the Kearney report. It should continue declining in the next 12-18 months before a possible rebound. "Amid ongoing challenges, big chemical players are under stress, prompting them to review their business models and restructure," Kearney said in a report regarding Europe. In some cases, the owner of a business may decide to put it on the market after realizing it is no longer a core part of the company, Walberer said. The corporation concludes that it is no longer the best owner of the business and decides to divest it. "There are a lot of good examples of how new owners have been able to improve the performance of the business," he said. DuPont's performance coatings business would later flourish as Axalta Coatings Systems. which was initially sold to Carlyle for $4.9 billion before becoming a publicly traded company. Another example is Nouryon, the surfactants business that was spun off from AkzoNobel. In other cases, the business's performance has suffered because of structural reasons, such as high costs, Walberer said. GOVERNMENT SEMICONDUCTOR INCENTIVES MAY DRIVE M&AElectronic materials could become another M&A trend because of the incentives being lavished by government, Walberer said. The US, China, the EU, Japan, Germany and South Korea are among the countries that created semiconductor incentive programs worth billions of dollars. DuPont's electronics business is one of the three that will break out of the company. That business itself is the product of acquisitions made by DuPont. CHEM M&A ACTIVITY OVER THE YEARSTypically, the value of chemical M&A is $100 billion to $120 billion per year, a level it reached in 2022 and 2023, Walberer said. The COVID pandemic and its subsequent recovery distorted M&A in 2020 and 2021. Values in 2019 and 2016 spiked because of large deals such as the Dow and DuPont merger and Aramco acquiring a large stake in SABIC. ANNOUNCEMENTS IN 2024The following lists some of the major chemical M&A announcements made so far in 2024. February 26: PPG explores strategic alternatives for its architectural coatings business in the US and Canada. It could reach a decision by the end of the third quarter. March 4: Evonik agrees to sell its superabsorbents business to International Investors Group (ICIG). March 13: Trinseo seeks to sell its stake in Americas Styrenics. It later clarified that the entire joint venture is for sale. May 6: BASF plans to sell its idled ammonia, methanol and melamine units in Ludwigshafen, Germany. May 8: LyondellBasell starts strategic review of the bulk of its operations in Europe. May 8: Shell agrees to sell its refinery and petrochemical assets in Singapore to the CAPGC joint venture. May 22: DuPont plans to break up into three companies, including one focusing on electronics and another on water. Insight article by Al Greenwood Thumbnail image by ICIS.

13-Jun-2024

PODCAST: Methanol could play leading role in the low-carbon energy transition

BARCELONA (ICIS)–Methanol has long-term potential as a major player in the energy transition, especially for use as a marine fuel. Methanol mainly made from coal in China, natural gas elsewhere Used to make formaldehyde, acetic acid, in China mainly coal-based methanol to olefins (MTO) Q2 typically sees peak demand for Europe construction but subdued this year Concerns about overcapacity globally as new projects come onstream Use as marine fuel may be a big driver of growth long term Energy transition offers great opportunities In this Think Tank podcast, Will Beacham interviews ICIS senior editor Eashani Chavda and ICIS Insight editor Nigel Davis. Editor’s note: This podcast is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the presenter and interviewees, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. ICIS is organising regular updates to help the industry understand current market trends. Register here . Read the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business. Read Paul Hodges and John Richardson's ICIS blogs.

11-Jun-2024

India to develop Iran’s Chabahar port; expand international trade

MUMBAI (ICIS)–India and Iran are currently charting plans to acquire equipment and machinery to enhance the capacity and increase vehicular movement at Chabahar port, after the two countries signed a 10-year deal to develop part of the Iranian port. State-owned Indian Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) and the Ports & Maritime Organisation (PMO) of Iran signed the agreement to develop and manage the Shahid-Behesti terminal at the Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran. “These efforts had been hampered in the past due to the US sanctions on Iran,” a source from India’s Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said, citing international sanctions imposed on the Middle Eastern country, which is suspected to be developing nuclear weapons. IPGL will invest around $120m in equipping the port, with India offering additional financing worth $250m for the development of mutually identified projects aimed at improving port infrastructure, the source said. Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman consists of the Shahid Beheshti port, which will be developed by India, and the Shahid Kalantri port. “The long-term contract will further strengthen ties between the two nations and highlights the importance of Chabahar as a gateway for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries,” the shipping ministry said in an official announcement on 13 May. “The Chabahar Port has easy access to India's west coast. The long-term contract will give a significant boost to economic activities and establish our growing role in developing global trade & commerce,” Indian shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal posted on social media platform X on 14 May. India imports methanol, bitumen, liquefied propane, inorganic/organic chemicals, among others from Iran; while it exports pharmaceuticals, rice, tea, sugar and fruits to the Middle Eastern country. The Chabahar project is part of the proposed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multi-modal transportation network of ship, rail and road route for moving goods between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. India and Iran had initially signed an agreement for the development of the port in 2003, but the project was stalled due to opposition from the US. The current deal replaces a 2016 agreement between the two countries that was being renewed periodically. IPGL, which took over operations at the Shahid Beheshti port in 2018, has handled more than 90,000 20-foot-equivalent units of container traffic and more than 8.4m tonnes of bulk and general cargo since then, the source from the shipping ministry said. The lack of a long-term agreement was, however, impacting investment by shippers and investors in the region. “The industry was initially uncomfortable about allowing its long-term supply chains to pass through Chabahar port as the Indian government did not have a long-term agreement with Iran for the port,” the official said. Negotiations for a long-term deal between the two countries had been stalled due to differences on several issues, including a disagreement on an international arbitration framework in case of disputes, he added. The Shahid Beheshti port is being developed in four phases; and on completion of all four phases, port capacity will be 82m tonnes/year, as per IPGL’s website. The first phase of the development was inaugurated in December 2017. Despite its potential, the Chabahar project could face hurdles due to the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, the government source said. US state department spokesman Vedant Patel on 14 May warned of possible sanctions against those engaging with the Iranian government. Focus article by Priya Jestin

27-May-2024

Proman Stena Bulk launches methanol-fueled chemical tanker in Singapore

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Proman Stena Bulk, a joint venture between Sweden-based tanker firm Stena Bulk and Swiss methanol producer Proman, on Thursday officially launched its sixth methanol-fueled joint venture chemical tanker in Singapore. The 49,900-deadweight tonnage (DWT) vessel called Stena Prosperous will be bunkered with a 20:80 green methanol and conventional methanol blend, they said in a joint statement. The fuel blend used by the vessel delivers carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) savings of 31% compared with a ship that runs on Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO), with lower emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulphur oxides (SOx), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Stena Prosperous is the last of six vessels in Proman Stena Bulk’s joint venture fleet of methanol-fueled tankers order placed in 2019, with the first ship delivered in June 2022. “With its cleaner burning qualities, methanol delivers immediate air quality benefits today, and the pathway demonstrated by our 20/80 blending strategy here in Singapore means that ship owners are also increasingly seeing it as a viable marine fuel for the future,” Proman CEO David Cassidy said. All six vessels running on methanol are now in commercial operation, with two on long-term time-charter. The fleet is currently crewed and operated by Stena Sphere company Northern Marine Group, which has highlighted that technical similarities of the tankers to conventionally fueled vessels mean they do not require a completely new set of operating procedures. Using methanol instead of conventional marine fuels virtually eliminates particulate matter and SOx, and cuts NOx by up to 80% during combustion. Technologies such as carbon capture, storage and utilization used in the production process cut emissions further, and green methanol produced from biogas can bring more than 90% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings. Additional reporting by Keven Zhang

23-May-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 10 May. Europe propylene supply rebalancing on derivative restart, cracker issues Propylene spot supply is returning to a more balanced position with a key derivative unit now back on stream and a couple of cracker issues disrupting output. Europe businesses face tough market and regulatory hurdles in long term – LyondellBasell Market conditions in Europe are likely to remain challenging in the long term while changing regulations are increasing costs for businesses, LyondellBasell Industries said on Thursday, after announcing a strategic review for most of its operations in the region. LyondellBasell launches review of European assets LyondellBasell has launched a strategic review of the bulk of its operations in Europe, the producer said on Wednesday, based on its strategy to focus on assets perceived to have long-lasting competitive advantage Chandra Asri aspires to become regional player with Shell Singapore purchase Chandra Asri is looking to develop its presence in southeast Asia and become a key regional player with its purchase of Shell’s refining and petrochemicals assets in Singapore alongside commodities major Glencore, the Indonesia-based firm said on Wednesday. IPEX: April index rises for fourth month in a row on firmer pricing in northwest Europe, northeast Asia The ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) was up 1.5% in April month on month as production constraints continue to push contract prices up across some commodities, mainly in northwest Europe and northeast Asia. BASF puts ammonia, methanol, melamine plants up for sale at Ludwigshafen BASF has engaged plant sale specialists International Process Plants (IPP) to sell idled ammonia, methanol and melamine units located at its loss-making Ludwigshafen site in Germany.

13-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

LyondellBasell launches review of European assets

LONDON (ICIS)–LyondellBasell has launched a strategic review of the bulk of its operations in Europe, the producer said on Wednesday, based on its strategy to focus on assets perceived to have long-lasting competitive advantage. The producer will conduct a review of its European olefins, polyolefins, intermediates and derivatives businesses, driven by its move announced last year to reinvest in its strongest performing operations. "At the 2023 Capital Markets Day, we stated our intent to concentrate our portfolio around businesses with long-lasting competitive advantage and to reinvest around those advantaged areas generating superior returns at meaningful scale. These criteria have not changed," said Lyondell CEO Peter Vanacker. The strategy announced at the 2023 investor day was based around three pillars: prioritizing growth spending on businesses where the company “has leading positions in expanding and well-positioned markets”, growing circular solutions earnings to $1 billion/year by 2030, and shifting from cost controls to a broader idea of value creation. Energy-intensive industries in Europe have been challenged by the sharp increase in gas prices seen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which remain substantially above pre-war and pre-pandemic norms despite falling dramatically since the nadir of winter 2022. Described by former BASF chief Martin Brudermuller earlier this year as a “systemic” change to the European operating environment, the higher cost of operating Europe has prompted a number of reviews by large global players. BASF is looking to cut €1 billion off the annual operating costs of its Ludwigshafen, Germany, complex. The company tapped plant sale specialists International Process Plants this week to explore the sale of its Ludwigshafen ammonia, methanol and melamine units, idled in 2023 due to high production costs. Dow also announced plans to review underperforming and smaller assets. A significant proportion of any cuts had been expected to land in Europe, although the US major has not given an update on the process since it was announced in early 2023. Indorama Ventures is also currently reviewing six assets out of its "West" portfolio for potential shutdown. While global gas pricing has come down, the cost of shipping gas will always be higher than sending it through a dedicated pipeline, as was the case with the Russia-derived natural gas that made up around half of the EU’s energy consumption prior to the war. As part of its stated intent to continue developing its sustainable and circular business, investments in a commercial-scale MoReTec plant, LyondellBasell's proprietary technology to convert plastic waste into liquid raw materials, and the development of a circularity hub in the Cologne, Germany region, will continue as planned, the company said. “The company will prioritize its investments to align operations with our circularity and net zero ambitions," Vanacker added. "We understand that strategic assessments can create uncertainty for our employees and customers, but we are committed to operate our assets safely and reliably throughout this process." LyondellBasell European prodcution Product Capacity (kt) Ethylene 1,805 HDPE 1,260 LDPE 740 MTBE 810 Polypropylene 2,175 Propylene 990 Propylene Oxide 785 Styrene 680 TBA 970 Update re-leads, adds detail throughout Additional reporting by Graeme Paterson, infographics by Yashas Mudumbai

08-May-2024

LOGISTICS: Container rates rise for first time since January; Canadian rail workers vote to strike

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Global average rates for shipping containers rose for the first time since January, workers at freight rail carriers Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) have voted in favor of a strike, and the US regulator that oversees railroads finalized a rule allowing reciprocal switching, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES Shipping container rates have been rising steadily since December when attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial vessels in the Red Sea forced carriers to take the longer route around the tip of the African continent before leveling off last week. This week, the global average for 40-foot shipping containers rose by 1%, according to supply chain advisors Drewry and as shown in the following chart. Rates from Shanghai to the US East Coast edged slightly higher, but rates from China to the West Coast edged slightly lower, as shown in the following chart. Judah Levine, head of research at online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos, said that the overall container market has settled into a new routine that avoids the Red Sea. “Though significant backlogs, congestion and equipment shortages seen during the first few weeks of the crisis have dissipated, adjustments have resulted in some moderate but ongoing disruptions,” Levine said in a weekly update. He said that even after falling drastically since the beginning of the year, prices remain well above normal and are likely to increase relative to this new floor as demand is set to increase for peak season. 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 CHEMICAL TANKERS US liquid chemical tanker freight rates assessed by ICIS were unchanged this week. From the US Gulf (USG) to Asia, the market has been quieter this week as a holiday-shortened week has sidelined some key players. There have been only a few parcels quoted, which is placing downward pressure on freight rates for smaller lots. Larger base cargoes of monoethylene glycol (MEG), methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), and methanol have been popular chemicals on this route, keeping larger freight rates steady. From the USG to India, the market has been very quiet. PORT OF BALTIMORE Since the opening of a fourth channel into the Port of Baltimore, 171 commercial vessels have transited the waterway, including five of the vessels that were trapped inside the port after the containership Dali struck the Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, according to the Unified Command (UC). The MSC Passion III entered the port on 29 April, according to vesselfinder.com, making it the first container ship to enter the port since the accident. 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. But a market participant in Ohio told ICIS previously that it is seeing delays in delivery times for imports as vessels originally destined to offload in Baltimore are getting re-routed to other ports. PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked vessels ready for transit edged for higher both directions this week, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times a week ago were 2.5 days for northbound traffic and 5.6 for southbound traffic. 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. RAILROADS Workers at freight rail carriers Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) have voted in favor of a strike. A first work stoppage could occur as early as 22 May, if no new collective agreements are reached by then, officials at labor union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) said in a televised announcement on 1 May. The rail carriers warned that a work stoppage would disrupt supply chains throughout North America and constrain trade between Canada and the US and Mexico. The two railroads account for the bulk of freight rail traffic in Canada. Meanwhile, chemical industry participants were largely supportive of a final rule adopted by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on reciprocal switching for inadequate service by railroads, but think the scope was too narrow and it does not cover a significant portion of rail traffic. For the first time, the STB said it is requiring that three service metrics be maintained on a standardized basis across all Class 1 railroads. In the US, chemical railcar loadings represent about 20% of chemical transportation by tonnage, with trucks, barges and pipelines carrying the rest. In Canada, chemical producers rely on rail to ship more than 70% of their products, with some exclusively using rail. Rail is also the predominant shipping method for US ethanol. Additional reporting by Kevin Callahan and Stefan Baumgarten Please see the Logistics: Impact on chemicals and energy topic page

03-May-2024

Besieged by imports, Brazil’s chemicals put hopes on hefty import tariffs hike

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazilian chemicals producers are lobbying hard for an increase in import tariffs for key polymers and petrochemicals from 12.6% to 20%, and higher in cases, hoping the hike could slow down the influx of cheap imports, which have put them against the wall. For some products, Brazil’s chemicals trade group Abiquim, which represents producers, has made official requests for the import tariffs to go up to a hefty 35%, from 9% in some cases. On Tuesday, Abiquim said several of its member companies “are already talking about hibernating plants” due to unprofitable economics. It did so after it published another set of somber statistics for the first quarter, when imports continued entering Brazil em masse. Brazil’s government Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex) is concluding on Tuesday a public consultation about this, with its decision expected in coming weeks. Abiquim has been busy with the public consultation: it has made as many as 66 proposals for import tariffs to be hiked for several petrochemicals and fertilizers, including widely used polymers such polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), or expandable PS (EPS), to mention just a few. Other chemicals trade groups, as well as companies, have also filed requests for import tariffs to be increased. In total, 110 import tariffs. HARD TO FIGHT OFFBrazil has always depended on imports to cover its internal chemicals demand, but the extraordinary low prices coming from competitors abroad has made Brazil’s chemicals plant to run with operating rates of 65% or lower. More and more, the country’s chemicals facilities are becoming white elephants which are far from their potential, as customers find in imported product more competitive pricing. Considering this dire situation and taking into account that the current government in Brasilia led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be more receptive to their demands, Abiquim has put a good fight in publica and private for measure which could shore up chemical producers’ competitiveness. This could come after the government already hiked import tariffs on several products in 2023 and re-introduced a tax break, called REIQ, for some chemicals which had been withdrawn by the previous Administration. While Brazil’s chemicals production competitiveness is mostly affected by higher input costs, with natural gas costs on average five times higher than in the US, the industry is hopeful a helping hand from the government in the form of higher import tariffs could slow down the flow of imports into Brazil. As a ‘price taker region’ given its dependence on imports, Latin American domestic producers have taken a hit in the past two years. In Brazil, polymers major Braskem is Abiquim’s commanding voice. Abiquim, obviously, has always been very outspoken – even apocalyptic – about the fate of its members as they try to compete with overseas countries, namely China who has been sending abroad product at below cost of production. The priorities in China’s dictatorial system are not related to the balance of markets, but to keep employment levels stable so its citizens find fewer excuses to protest against the regime which keeps them oppressed. Capitalist market dynamics are for the rest of the world to balance; in China’s dictatorial, controlled-economy regime the priority is to make people feel the regime’s legitimacy can come from never-ending economic growth. The results of such a policy for the rest of the world – not just in chemicals but in all industrial goods – is becoming clear: unprofitable industries which cannot really compete with heavily subsidized Chinese players. The results of such a policy in China are yet to be seen, but subsiding at all costs any industry which creates employment may have debt-related lasting consequences: as they mantra goes, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Abiquim’s executive president urged Lula’s cabinet to look north, to the US, where the government has imposed hefty tariffs on almost all China-produced industrial goods or raw materials for manufacturing production. “[The hikes in import tariffs] have improved the US’ scenario: despite the aggressive advance in exports by Asian countries, the drop in US [chemicals] production in 2023 was of 1%, while in Brazil the index for production fell nearly by 10%,” said Andre Passos. “The country adopted an increase in import taxes of over 30% to defend its market from unfair competition. The taxation for some inputs, such as phenol, resins and adipic [acid], for example, exceeds three digits. “Here, we are suggesting an increase in rates to 20% in most claims … We need to have this breathing space for the industry to recover,” he concluded. As such, the figures for the first quarter showed no sign of imports into Brazil slowing down. The country posted a trade deficit $9.9 billion during the January-March period; the 12-month accumulated (April 2023 to March 2024) deficit stood at $44.7 billion. A record high of 61.2 million tonnes of chemicals products entered Brazil in Q1; in turn, the country’s industry exported 14.6 million tonnes. Abiquim proposals for higher import tariffs Product Current import tariff Proposed tariff Expandable polystyrene, unfilled, in primary form 12.6% 20% Other polystyrenes in primary forms 12.6% 20% Carboxymethylcellulose with content > =75%, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other polyurethanes in liquids and pastes 12.6% 20% Phthalic anhydride 10.8% 20%  Sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate) 9% 35% Copolymers of ethylene and alpha-olefin, with a density of less than 0.94 12.6% 20% Other orthophthalic acid esters 11% 20% Other styrene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other silicon dioxides 0% 18% Other polyesters in liquids and pastes  12.6% 20% Commercial ammonium carbonates and other ammonium carbonates 9% 18% Other unsaturated polyethers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene terephthalate, with a viscosity index of 78 ml/g or more 12.6% 20% Phosphoric acid with an iron content of less than 750 ppm 9% 18% Dinonyl or didecyl orthophthalates 11% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by suspension process 12.6% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by emulsion process 12.6% 20% Methyl polymethacrylate, in primary form  12.6% 20% White mineral oils (vaseline or paraffin oils) 4% 35% Other polyetherpolyols, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled epoxy resins in primary forms 12.6% 20% Silicon dioxide obtained by chemical precipitation 9% 18% Acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber in plates, sheets, etc 11% 35% Other organic anionic surface agents, whether or not put up for retail sale, not classified under previous codes 12.6% 23% Phenol (hydroxybenzene) and its salts 7% 20% Fumaric acid, its salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Plasticizers and plastics 10 ,8% 20% Maleic anhydride 10 ,8% 20% Adipic acid salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Propylene copolymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Adipic acid 9% 20% Unfilled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Filled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Methacrylic acid methyl esters 10 ,8% 20% Other ethylene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Acrylic acid 2-ethylhexyl esters 0% 20% 2-Ethylexanoic acid (2-ethylexoic acid) 10. 8% 20% Other copolymers of ethylene and vinyl acetate, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled polyethylenes, density >= 0.94, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, unfilled 12.6% 20% Other saturated acyclic monoalcohol acetates, c atom <= 8 10. 8% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, with filler 12.6% 20% Triacetin 10. 8% 20% Sodium methylate in methanol 12.6% 20% Stearic alcohol (industrial fatty alcohol) 12.6% 20% N-butyl acetate                              11% 20% Stearic acid (industrial monocarboxylic fatty acid) 5% 35% Alkylbenzene mixtures 11% 20% Organic, non-ionic surface agents 12.6% 23% Ammonium nitrate, whether or not in aqueous solution 0.0% 15% Monoethanolamine and its salts 12.6% 20% Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol) 10.8% 20% Butan-1-ol (n-butyl alcohol) 10.8% 20% Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), food grade as established by the Food Chemical Codex, in primary forms 10.8% 22% Styrene                                9% 18% Hexamethylenediamine and its salts 10.8% 20% Latex from other synthetic or artificial rubbers 10.8% 35% Propylene glycol (propane-1, 2-diol) 10.8% 20% Preparations 12.6% 20% Linear alkylbenzene sulfonic acids and their salts 12.6% 23% 4,4'-Isopropylidenediphenol (bisphenol A, diphenylolpropane) and its salts 10.8% 20% Dipropylene glycol 12.6% 20% Butanone (methyl ethyl ketone) 10.8% 20% Ethyl acetate                                 10.8% 20% Methyl-, ethyl- and propylcellulose, hydroxylated 0.0% 20% Front page picture: Chemical production facilities outside Sao Paulo  Source: Union of Chemical and Petrochemical industries in the state of Sao Paulo (Sinproquim) Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional information by Thais Matsuda and Bruno Menini

30-Apr-2024

LOGISTICS: Asia-US container rates fall; tanker rates stable to softer; bridge collapse causing delays

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Shipping container rates continue to fall, liquid chemical tanker rates are stable to softer, and the bridge collapse at the Port of Baltimore has led to longer delivery times for imports, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES Rates for shipping containers from east Asia and China to the US continue to fall along with average global rates as capacity remains ample to handle the longer routes as commercial vessels continue to avoid the Suez Canal. Supply chain advisors Drewry said average rates ticked lower this week but remain 64% higher than the same week a year ago, as shown in the following chart. Rates from Asia to the US and Europe have also continued to fall, as shown in the following chart. Drewry said it expects a minor decrease in Transpacific spot rates and for stability along the Transatlantic and Asia-Europe trade lanes. Judah Levine, head of research at online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos, said rates along the US East Coast have fallen since the collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore, which signals to him that regional container traffic continues to flow. Levine said downward pressure will continue because of soft demand and it being the slow season for container trade, but that if threats persist in the Red Sea and commercial vessels continue to divert away from the Suez Canal, prices will remain above normal. 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. PORT OF BALTIMORE The Unified Command (UC) continues to remove containers from the Dali and clear wreckage from the collapsed bridge at the entrance to the Port of Baltimore. Source: Key Bridge Response 2024 While the closure of the port has not had a direct impact on the flow of chemicals, a market participant in Ohio said it is seeing delays in delivery times for imports as vessels originally destined to offload in Baltimore are getting re-routed to other ports. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) expects to open a limited access channel 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep by the end of April, and are aiming to reopen the permanent, 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel by the end of May, restoring port access to normal capacity. As of 11 April, approximately 38 containers have been removed, the UC said, which is necessary for safe access to them begin removing the segments of the fallen bridge that lie across the ship’s bow. While marine traffic is still limited, 69 vessels have transited through since the creation of the temporary alternate channels. LIQUID CHEM TANKERS US liquid chemical tanker freight rates as assessed by ICIS held mostly steady this week – except from the US Gulf Coast (USG) to India. There is downward pressure on rates along the USG-Asia trade lane as several outsiders have come on berth for both April and May, adding to the available tonnage for completion cargos. On the other hand, rates from the USG to Rotterdam were steady this week even as space is limited and there are no outsiders on berth. Contract tonnage continues to prevail, with continued interest in styrene, MTBE and ethanol. There has been activity on the spot market, but owners are still working with COA customers to finalize their needs before committing to others. For the USG to South America trade lane rates remain steady with several inquiries for methanol widely viewed in the market. PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked vessels ready for transit edged higher both directions this week, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times last week were 0.8 days for northbound traffic and 0.8 days for southbound traffic. Please see the Logistics: Impact on chemicals and energy topic page With additional reporting by Emily Friedman and Kevin Callahan

12-Apr-2024

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