Mixed plastic waste and pyrolysis oil

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Gain a transparent view of the opaque mixed plastic waste and pyrolysis oil markets in Europe. With the growth of chemical recycling in Europe, competition for mixed plastic waste feedstock is intensifying. Pyrolysis-based plants targeting mixed plastic waste (with a focus on polyolefins) as feedstock account for ~60% (2023) of all operating chemical recycling capacity in Europe.

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Pyrolysis oil pricing includes naphtha substitute, non-upgraded and tyre derived grades.
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Mixed plastic waste and pyrolysis oil news

VIDEO: Europe R-PET looks for more market clarity at PRSE

LONDON (ICIS)–Matt Tudball, senior editor for Recycling, takes a look at the latest developments in the European recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market, including: ICIS at Plastics Recycling Show Europe (PRSE) – email recycling@icis.com for a meeting Mixed views on food-grade pellet demand Better 2024 outlook to emerge at PRSE Prices stable ahead of event

14-Jun-2024

Higher import tariffs one leg of wider plan to save Brazil’s besieged chemicals producers – Abiquim

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Proposals to sharply increase chemicals import tariffs are only one of the three aspects Brazil’s chemicals producers have proposed to the government to save their "besieged” operations, according to the CEO at trade group Abiquim. Andre Passos added that the industry has also proposed to the government a structural plan to reduce natural gas prices in Brazil as well as a US-style, IRA-type stimulus plan for the chemicals chain, completing a plan to help chemicals producers which remain, he said, operating at historically low rates. Abundant and low-priced chemicals imports have been making their way to Brazil for several months, with domestic producers facing stiff competition and losing market share. China has been the main country of origin, but Passos said also pointed to the US, Russia, or Saudi Arabia. In May, chemicals producers – via Abiquim but also as individual companies – proposed increasing tariffs in more than 100 chemicals, most of them from 12.6% to 20%, in a public consultation held by the Brazil’s government body the Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex). A decision is expected in August as the latest. Abiquim represents only chemicals producers, but not distributors; Brazil’s polymers major Braskem, which is 36.1% owned by the state-owned energy major Petrobras, has a commanding voice in the trade group. Other trade groups in the chemicals chain, such as Abiplast, representing plastics transformers, do not support higher tariffs as most of their members import product to meet their demand. Soon after Abiquim met with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in May, as part of their lobbying to prop up chemicals producers’ operations, Abiplast and several other trade groups also demanded a meeting with Lula to lobby for their case of not raising import tariffs. NOT ONLY TARIFFSPassos was keen to stress that higher tariffs were only one part of producers’ proposals to the government and emphasized the measure has been proposed to be in place for one year. In May, a source in Brazil’s chemicals said to ICIS that simply proposing higher tariffs, without addressing other productivity and global competitiveness issues in an industry mostly based in commodity chemicals production, was the result of “business mediocrity”. Passos was not having it. “What is a showing of mediocrity is not to understand this [higher import tariffs] is a proposal to be in place for only one year, in the face of a situation where chemicals producers are operating at rates of 62-64% and where the survival of several chemicals chains is being jeopardized,” he said. “What we have presented to the government is the need to undertake action on three main fronts: in the short term, import tariffs, but in the medium and long term we also need a structural plan to address natural gas prices, which are seven times higher in Brazil than in some other jurisdictions, as well as a stimulus plan covering the whole chemicals production chain.” Brazil’s natural gas prices have hovered around $14/MMBtu during the past months. That compares to a price of around $2.5/MMBtu at times in the US, although this week prices surpassed the $3/MMBtu mark in that country. The chemicals industry can use natural gas-based ethane as one of its building blocks, which has allowed the US’ chemicals industry to thrive after the shale gas boom. In Brazil, most steam crackers run on crude oil-based naphtha. According to Passos, with the adequate regulatory framework and a helping hand from Petrobras, prices could come down considerably in Brazil. To that aim, the energy major and Abiquim signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) earlier in 2024 to explore potential agreements on natural gas supply to chemicals. Abiquim says the sector is Brazil’s largest consumer of natural gas, coping 25-30% of supply, and therefore government-controlled Petrobras could do more to help. Petrobras has always focused on crude oil production, with most of the natural gas extracted in its operations reinjected back into the system. Passos said Abiquim and Petrobras should be announcing concrete action on natural gas in coming weeks. Moreover, Petrobras said in May it was to restart construction work on its gas processing unit in Itaborai, called Gaslub and also known as Rota 3. The project’s construction, started in the early 2010s, fell victim to the wide-ranging corruption scandal Lava Jato in which Petrobras was a central part. “Currently, Brazil’s crude oil sector is well regulated and is one of the country’s success stories. We need the same for natural gas. When Gaslub is started up, 18 million of cubic meters (cbm)/year will come into the market. We are forecasting there could be gas oversupply within two years, although this of course depends on other variables as well,” said Pasos. “Barring disruption to supply from Bolivia, or a potential severe drought which would lower hydraulic electricity production [having to use natural gas to produce it], we are forecasting that with the adequate regulatory framework and Gaslub functioning, natural gas prices could come down considerably in the medium-term.” Passos was keen to stress how Braskem’s steam cracker in Rio de Janeiro’s Duque de Caxias facilities, which runs on natural gas-based feedstocks, is operating, exceptionally, at an approximately 85% operating rate. This shows, he went on to say, how even with high prices more supply of natural gas is indispensable for chemicals producers to increase their competitiveness. He also said the fiscal burden chemicals procures in Brazil endure stands at 43%, versus 20% in the US, according to Abiquim’s estimations. Work there, he said, could also be done. STIMULUS  Passos said the government must contemplate a plan for the chemicals industry following the example of the US’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which has propelled large investments in green energy projects, propping up the chemicals industry along the way. He conceded the US’ resources are larger than Brazil’s but said that the government has already showed it can design plans to prop up specific economic sectors, and mentioned the example of the Mover program for the automotive industry. Earlier this week, Brazil’s Congress finally approved the plan, proposed in December. In the best Brazilian style, members of parliament (MPs) introduced amendments which graphically are known as “jabuti” (turtle): amendments to a bill which are little related to the spirit of the bill itself. In Brazil’s strong balance of powers, MPs can greatly delay the passing of bills, like Mover. “We have presented to the government the need for an IRA-like, Mover-style plan for the chemicals industry, for all elements in the production chain: basic chemicals as well as chemicals of first, second, and third generation,” said Passos. “Brazil has been able to destine Brazilian reais (R) 19.3 billion [$3.6 billion] for automotive – it can do the same for the important chemicals industry, which creates so many jobs in the country.” Finally, Passos said that before the severe floods affecting Rio Grande do Sul in May – which brought havoc to one of Brazil’s most industrialized states – demand and manufacturing activity was healthier than in 2023, overall, although that improvement had not benefitted any of Abiquim’s members: higher demand for chemicals was being met by imports, he said. On Monday (17 June), the second part of this interview will be published, with Passos' views on Brazil’s response to the floods. Passos is a gaucho himself – as people from Rio Grande do Sul are called – and said the authorities' response to the disaster had been decent, adding he had been humbled by the response of civic society across Brazil. ($1 = R5.36) Front page picture: Braskem's Duque de Caxias facilities in Rio de Janeiro Source: Braskem Interview article by Jonathan Lopez ($1 = R5.36)

14-Jun-2024

BLOG: China could still become entirely petrochemicals self-sufficient despite EVs impact on refineries

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson: China has set itself a target that 40% of all the vehicles on its roads will be electric by 2030. And by that year, the aim is that all new-vehicle sales will be electric vehicles (EVs). The country wants to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060. “After 2030, it is going to be pretty much impossible to get approval for a heavy industry project because of the emissions targets,” said a petrochemicals industry source. This has led to suggestions that the resulting lower availability of feedstocks from local refineries will slow China’s push towards complete petrochemicals self-sufficiency. I disagree for the following reasons. Despite a cap on local refinery capacity, I’ve been told that local supply of naphtha, etc shouldn’t be a problem until up to a least 2030, because refineries will be increasingly turned in petrochemicals feedstock centers. More naphtha and gasoil crackers are expected to be added to refineries ahead of the 2030 cut-off point. Other heavier fractions from refineries are also forecast to be increasingly used as petrochemicals feedstocks. And even if local feedstock supply does become constrained after 2030, we shouldn’t assume that this will restrict domestic production because of the weaker-tonne economics of importing raw materials. China’s closer geopolitical relationships with the Middle East, along with increased availability of natural-gas liquids in the Middle East, suggest that imports of feedstocks will be available at the right costs. My view is that China’s economic challenges will result in annual average petrochemicals consumption growth of 1-3% per year up until 2030. Beyond 2030 I see growth falling to around 1%. Weaker demand growth will of course make it easier to increase petrochemicals self-sufficiency. Because recycling is mainly a “local for local” business due to the restrictions on moving plastic waste across borders growth of recycling in China will, in my view again, increase the country’s self-sufficiency in polymers. Recycling is exactly the type of higher-value industry China needs to nurture as it attempts to escape a middle-income trap made very deep by its demographic challenges. Security of local supplies of raw materials in an ever-more uncertain geopolitical world will add further momentum to the growth of recycling in China. Local virgin polymer and petrochemical plants will run at high operating rates, supported by maximising supply of feedstocks from local refineries and by competitive imports of feedstocks from China’s geopolitical partners. This will further boost supply security. Don’t be therefore distracted by suggestions that the growth of EVs in China and the country’s emissions targets will be good news for petrochemical exporters to China. China will become a vast continent-sized market that will be just about entirely self-sufficient. As I shall explore in a later post, this will apply to specialty as well as commodity grades of petrochemicals. Overseas producers most focus on markets elsewhere. As the chart below shows using high-density polyethylene (HDPE) as an example, the opportunities in other countries and regions are big. China lifted all petrochemicals boats during the 1992-2021 Supercycle, making even the least-competitive companies successful. This is no longer the case. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.

14-Jun-2024

INSIGHT: China slams EU over EV tariffs; trade war brewing

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China has slammed EU’s proposal to impose provisional tariffs on imports of Chinese electric vehicles (EVs), denouncing it as a "blatant act of protectionism”, raising concerns that a trade war between Asia’s biggest economy and a new western front is brewing. EU tariffs on Chinese EVs to rise to 27-48% Retaliatory measures from China likely EU imports of China cars surge sevenfold over three years "The European side has disregarded facts and WTO [World Trade Organization] rules, ignored China's repeated strong opposition, and ignored the appeals and dissuasion of multiple EU member state governments and industries," China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement issued late on 12 June. The European Commission on 12 June notified Chinese automakers, including EV giant BYD, Geely, and state-owned SAIC Motor Corp, that it will impose additional provisional tariffs of 17% to 38% on imported Chinese EVs from around 4 July. These will be applied to existing 10% tariffs imposed on all Chinese EVs, with the final rate determined by each carmaker's level of cooperation with EU's anti-subsidy investigation launched in September last year. NEW FRONT FOR TIT-FOR-TAT TRADE WAR China’s commerce ministry has urged the EU to "immediately correct its wrong practices" and "properly handle trade frictions through dialogue and consultation". The ministry said it will "resolutely take all necessary measures to firmly defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies". "This move by the European side not only harms the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese electric vehicle industry but will also disrupt and distort the global automotive industry chain and supply chain, including the EU," it said. The EU's move follows the US' tariff hikes announced last month on Chinese imports of EVs, batteries and other materials, starting 1 August. In 2018, then US President Donald Trump initiated a trade war with China by imposing tariffs on Chinese imports to address alleged trade imbalances, intellectual property theft, and unfair trade practices. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods, escalating tensions between the two biggest economies in the world. While reviews by the US and EU on Chinese goods were under way, Beijing launched in May an anti-dumping investigation into imported polyoxymethylene (POM) copolymer, also known as polyformaldehyde copolymer – a key material in electronics and automotive manufacturing. China's commerce ministry alleged that the plastic is being sold below market value, harming domestic producers. The probe, targeting imports from the US, EU, Taiwan, and Japan, could last up to 18 months and is seen as a direct response to their recent trade barriers against Chinese goods. In the case of Taiwan, China has also suspended tariff concessions on 134 more products from the island, including base oil, chemicals, and chemical products, citing Taiwan’s supposed violations of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the mainland. Meanwhile, Japan’s tightened export controls on 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment that took effect on July 2023 was deemed in line with restrictions imposed by the US and the Netherlands, potentially hindering China's access to advanced chipmaking technology. China may issue further retaliatory measures, potentially impacting global supply chains and escalating trade tensions with major economies in the west. The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals that contributes more than one-third of the raw material costs of an average vehicle. The automotive sector drives demand for chemicals such as polypropylene (PP), along with nylon, polystyrene (PS), styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), polyurethane (PU), methyl methacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). CHINA 2023 CAR EXPORTS TO EU SURGE China’s exports of automobiles to the EU have surged over the past year, particularly in the battery electric vehicle (BEV) segment, according to Nomura Global Markets Research. Cars produced in China accounted for 20% of all BEV registrations in the EU during the first two months of 2024, it said, citing data from automotive business intelligence firm JATO Dynamics. An analysis of January-April 2024 sales figures from China’s top three EV manufacturers in the EU, however, suggests that their overall presence in the region is still nascent, Nomura noted. In 2023, EU’s imports of Chinese EVs surged to $11.5 billion, more than sevenfold increase from $1.6 billion in 2020, according to think thank Rhodium Group. China accounted for 37% of EU’s total EV imports last year, it said. In the first quarter of 2024, about 40% of China’s EV exports or 145,002 units went to Europe, according to official customs data. Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail image: An electric car at a charging station near the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

13-Jun-2024

China price pressures to remain weak on persistent weak demand

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's consumer inflation rate is expected to remain weak in the near future on persistently weak domestic demand, raising worries about the risk of deflation as the nation's economic recovery struggles to gain traction. This comes as the country's consumer price index (CPI) rose by a mere 0.3% year-on-year in May, unchanged from April and well below the government's 3% target. "Amid still-weak domestic demand, we expect CPI inflation to stay slightly above zero in the near term and producer price index (PPI) inflation to be slightly less negative on a low base," Japan's Nomura Global Markets Research said in a note. China's headline inflation rate is projected to remain positive but stay mild under 1% until the third quarter of this year, said Ho Woei Chen, an economist with Singapore-based UOB Global Economics & Markets Research. "The deflation in the fourth quarter of 2023 will provide a low base for CPI to rebound more strongly in the last quarter of the year," Ho said. UOB's full-year forecast for China's headline inflation is at 0.7% for 2024, compared with 0.2% in 2023, "but current trajectory suggests that the risk is to the downside", she added. Meanwhile, factory gate prices continued their downward spiral, with the PPI falling for the 20th consecutive month in May. The PPI declined by 1.4% year on year in May, a slight improvement from the 2.5% drop in April. "The pace of PPI deflation is expected to ease but this had been slower than expected as oil prices stayed muted and overcapacity in some industries weighed on the prices of manufactured goods," Ho said. "Increasing tariffs imposed on Chinese goods may further delay the price recovery." The persistent low inflation is a stark contrast to the high inflation plaguing Western economies, further fueling fears of deflation as China grapples with sluggish consumer spending – a key obstacle to the country's uneven recovery from the pandemic. While inflation is likely to remain low in the second quarter, it should begin to pick up in the second half of the year, Dutch banking and financial information services provider ING said in a note. "Although inflation is set to pick up this year as the drag from falling food prices fades, it is anticipated to remain well below target amid slowing consumption and weak demand pressures," the World Bank said in its June Global Economic Prospects report released on 11 June. "Producer price pressures are also set to remain weak in the context of subdued activity and softening prices for commodities, particularly energy and metals." China's economic growth is projected to ease to 4.8% in 2024, down from 5.2 percent in 2023, as activity is expected to soften in the latter half of this year, according to World Bank estimates. While a potential uptick in goods exports and industrial activity, bolstered by a global trade recovery, is anticipated, this will likely be counterbalanced by weaker domestic consumption, it added. "We expect domestic and external demand to continue diverging over the near term, as the property fallout sustains and the economy rebalances itself," Nomura said. "Export growth is likely to remain resilient in the near term, thanks to a low base, the resilient US economy, the global tech upswing, the price advantage of Chinese products and some front-loading ahead of scheduled or threatened tariff hikes." Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman

13-Jun-2024

Styrolution to permanently shut Sarnia styrene plant in Canada

HOUSTON (ICIS)–INEOS Styrolution will close its 445,000 tonnes/year styrene production plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, by June 2026, the company announced Tuesday. Styrolution has been involved in a dispute with Canadian government officials over the plant after a nearby indigenous group complained about benzene emission levels from the site. The company shut the plant for maintenance in April after the complaints surfaced. But Styrolution said that was not the reason for the plant closure. “Our decision to permanently close the Sarnia site by June 2026 is irrespective of the current situation,” the company said in a news release. Styrene producers in North America, as well as globally, have been battling poor economics due to over-capacity. North American styrene operating rates have been under 70% so far this year. China, once a key outlet for North American styrene, has added significant styrene capacity over the past three years. China commissioned 3.7 million tonnes of styrene capacity in 2023 alone. “This difficult business decision to permanently close our Sarnia site was made following a lengthy evaluation process and is based on the economics of the facility within a wider industry context,” Styrolution CEO Steve Harrington said. “The long-term prospects for the Sarnia site have worsened to the point that it is no longer an economically viable operating asset.” Even with the loss of styrene supply to the market, the Sarnia plant closure in April has had no impact on styrene spot prices. “Additional large investments that are unrelated to the potential costs of restarting operations would be necessary in the near future. Such investments would be economically impractical given today’s challenging industry environment,” Harrington said. In late May, Canada’s federal environment minister extended an order imposing stricter benzene emission controls on plants operating at the Sarnia petrochemicals production hub in southern Ontario, close to the US border and Detroit, Michigan, for two years. The order came after an Ontario provincial ministry suspended production operations at Styrolution's Sarnia styrene plant following the complaints from residents about potentially high benzene emissions. In addition to styrene, the Sarnia plant has ethylbenzene production capacity of 490,000 tonnes/year, according to the ICIS Supply and Demand Database. Styrolution operates two additional styrene plants in North America – the 770,000 tonnes/year facility in Bayport, Texas, and the 455,000 tonnes/year plant in Texas City, Texas. The Sarnia plant represents approximately 7% of North American nameplate styrene capacity. Styrene is a chemical used to make latex and polystyrene resins, which in turn are used to make plastic packaging, disposable cups and insulation. Major North American styrene producers include AmSty, INEOS Styrolution, LyondellBasell Chemical, Shell Chemicals Canada, Total Petrochemicals and Westlake Styrene. Thumbnail shows a cup made of polystyrene (PS), which is one of the main derivatives of styrene. Image by ICIS.

11-Jun-2024

VIDEO: Global oil outlook. Five factors to watch in week 24

LONDON (ICIS)–Crude prices could move sideways this week as investors await key economic data. The US Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) will be released this week, as will Chinese inflation figures for May. ICIS experts look at the factors likely to drive oil prices in Week 24.

11-Jun-2024

India’s GAIL to build $7.2bn Madhya Pradesh petrochemical complex

MUMBAI (ICIS)–State-owned GAIL (India) Ltd plans to invest Indian rupee (Rs) 600 billion ($7.2 billion) to build an ethane cracker and its derivative plants in Madhya Pradesh. The cracker will have a 1.5 million tonne/year capacity and will be set up at Ashta in the Sehore district of the state in central India, GAIL said in a regulatory disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 10 June. GAIL did not provide product or capacity details of the ethylene derivatives it plans to produce at the complex. “Around 800 hectares of land shall be provided by the MP [Madhya Pradesh] Industrial Development Corporation, for which the state government has already initiated the process,” GAIL said. Project construction is expected to begin by February 2025, with commercial production likely in the financial year ending March 2031, it added. Investment on the project is still pending approval from GAIL management board, and the mode of financing yet to be decided. The Madhya Pradesh state government has approved the project and land will be allotted soon, state chief minister Mohan Yadav had said in a statement on 7 June. He said that “petrochemicals like linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE), mono ethylene glycol (MEG) and propylene will be produced” at the site. The new project is part of GAIL’s initiative to enhance its petrochemical portfolio, a company source said. “The demand for petrochemicals is increasing in the country, led by expanding industrial, construction and manufacturing,” he said, citing an 8-9% annual growth rate in India’s polymer demand. In March 2024, GAIL had signed a tripartite agreement with Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Shell Energy India to explore opportunities for the import of ethane and other hydrocarbons at Shell Energy Terminal in Hazira in the western Gujarat state. Separately, the company recently announced plans to set up liquid pipeline for ethylene (C2), propylene (C3) from Vijaipur to Aurai in the northern Uttar Pradesh state. At Pata in the same state, GAIL will begin operations at the 60,000 tonne/year PP plant by December 2024. At Usar in the western Maharashtra state, GAIL expects to begin operations at its 500,000 tonne/year propane dehydrogenation unit (PDH) and 500,000 tonnes/year polypropylene (PP) line by April 2025; and its 50,000 tonne/year isopropylene project by December 2025. In the southern Karnataka state, the company expects to bring on line its 1.25m tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Mangalore by March 2025. GAIL had acquired JBF Petrochemicals in June 2023 which allowed it to add PTA to its existing petrochemical portfolio. ($1 = Rs83.49) Focus article by Priya Jestin

11-Jun-2024

Chile’s Petroquim navigating better than peers pressure from Asian material – exec

SANTIAGO (ICIS)–Polypropylene (PP) producer Petroquim is also facing pressure from lower-priced material sent from Asia, but the company’s “dedicated” service to customers has kept its sales spared from a larger hit, according to the commercial manager at the Chilean company. Veronica Masjuan said that, as the sole PP producer in Chile, Petroquim will always be able to have a pool of potential customers larger than its actual production, a key element allowing the company to protect its “small market share” in a country where PP imports have always played a key role to supply the market. Founded in 1998, Petroquim operates a PP plant in Talcahuano, near the city of Concepcion, 500 kilometers south of Santiago. It has the capacity to produce 120,000 tonnes/year, according to the ICIS Supply & Demand database, although in 2023 it produced 61,000 tonnes. ASIAN PRESSUREAcross Latin America, producers of polymers have in the past two years been under intense pressure from lower-priced Asian material, especially Chinese material, which has been sent, on occasion, at below cost-of-production prices. Masjuan said it was not for her to say if China’s exports constituted an example of dumping – “that would be for policymakers to do” – but said that lower prices in the past two years had indeed put pressure on Petroquim’s margins. “The truth is that their [China’s] prices are very economical compared to the global PP prices, when you add the costs associated with production or delivery, for instance,” said Masjuan. “Given that our market share is small, we have managed to protect it quite well: my sales capacity is much larger than what I produce, so to speak. But it is true that lower international prices have also affected our margins.” However, Masjuan said Petroquim has always managed to return a profit, even in 2023, which is considered the hardest year amid the downcycle the global petrochemicals sector is going through. RECYCLINGMasjuan said that Chile is more ahead than other countries in Latin America in tackling the plastic waste issue, as regulations in that regard started decades ago. Asked whether a true circular economy in which everything is 100% recycled could put polymers producers such as Petroquim out of business, she said that is unlikely because total circularity would be very difficult to achieve. “Chile was one of the first countries to adopt mandates about plastic carrier bags, for instance. We have some experience on this front, and at Petroquim we have a person exclusively dedicated to circularity issues,” said Masjuan. “Who is to blame for the plastic waste pollution? I think that first and foremost the responsibility falls with the consumer, the user of the final plastic product. Meanwhile, I do agree that producers, for sure, need to be in constant search for new methods to make the products more recyclable. “But, overall, I believe not 100% of all polymers will be recycled, ever, and especially those for food contact. For instance, in the EU, one of the most advanced regions in that regard, they don’t allow 100% recycled content for food contact either.” Front page picture: Petroquim’s PP plant in Talcahuano Source: Petroquim  Additional reporting by Bruno Menini and Thais Matsuda

10-Jun-2024

Yearly average Europe R-HDPE spreads suggest squeezed margins for pipe-grade producers

LONDON (ICIS)–Yearly average Europe recycled high density polyethylene (R-HDPE) pipe-grade black pellet prices in 2024 to date are at their lowest level since 2020. 2024 prices to date are the second-lowest yearly average price on record, behind 2020. These prices are a result of the cost-of-living crisis muting construction demand and driving oversupply across the market over the past 18 months. The yearly average price in 2023 was just €50/tonne above its current level. Yearly average pipe-grade black pellet price Year Average price (€/tonne) 2019 (price series began in May) 843 2020 696 2021 1,009 2022 1,267 2023 850 2024 (to date) 800 Producers of pipe-grade black pellets have been complaining of squeezed margins since early 2023, something which is borne out by examining average prices. The yearly average spread between mixed-coloured bale feedstock values (see bale section) and pipe-grade pellets is also at its lowest since 2020, and its second lowest on record. Yearly average spread mixed-coloured bale vs pipe-grade black pellet Year Average spread (€/tonne) 2019 (price series began in May) 537 2020 524 2021 597 2022 717 2023 543 2024 (to date) 533 Nevertheless, this doesn’t show the full picture since energy and labour costs remain considerably higher than they were in 2020 due to inflationary pressures. Coupled with this, the above chart does not factor in wastage rates, which are at least 25% and often higher. What this means is that at a 25% wastage rate, you’d need to input 1.25 tonnes of feedstock waste – increasing the cost base. Adjusting the spreads to account for a 25% wastage rate shows that the average spread in both 2023 and 2024 to date were identical, and that both are the lowest seen since 2019.  Yearly average spread mixed-coloured bale vs pipe-grade black pellet (adjusted at 25% wastage rate) Year Average adjusted spread (€/tonne) 2019 (price series began in May) 460 2020 481 2021 494 2022 579.5 2023 466.25 2024 (to date) 466.25 Market players are becoming increasingly concerned over the demand outlook beyond Q2, due to a combination of mounting substitution pressure from virgin (particularly for non-packaging grades) and the approach of the summer lull. Substitution pressure from virgin and off-spec material is likely to disproportionately impact on non-packaging grades, which typically purchase recycled material for cost-saving reasons. Seasonal factors typically mean that pipe-grade pellet prices are typically stronger in the first half of the year than the second, with June representing the last month when prices are typically above the yearly average. This is both due to construction activity typically being more limited in winter months when temperatures are colder, and the impact of typical convertor summer shutdowns for routine maintenance in July/August, followed by destocking in Q4 to lower working capital on year-end balance sheets. During July and August, downstream convertors typically shut for several weeks of routine maintenance. Typically southern Europe shuts earlier than northern Europe, with the majority of northern Europe shutdowns occurring in August. There has been repeated talk in the past few weeks of German convertors shutting as early as late-June this year due to negative macroeconomic conditions in the country. This price trend can be seen in the Seasonality Index chart below. The seasonality index shows which months in the year prices are typically higher than average, and which months they are typically lower than average, and to what extent. It reveals underlying trading patterns in markets beyond short-term supply/demand conditions. The average price is represented by 1.00. When the index is below 1.00 it means that prices are typically below average in that month, and when above 1.00 it means prices are typically above average in that month, with the distance from 1.00 showing the extent. It is calculated by first dividing each monthly price by the average price for that year to give an index value. Then, all of those monthly index values are averaged to give a single value for each month. Those averaged monthly values are used to plot the seasonality index. The longer a price series has been running, the more accurate the seasonality index. ICIS began pricing R-HDPE bales in May 2019. Focus article by Mark Victory

07-Jun-2024

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