The Paraxylene-Orthoxylene (PX-OX) markets are covered by ICIS’ network of locally-based reporters in Asia, Europe and the US. The weekly reports bring you in-depth news on spot on contract markets and analysis in the commentary provides intelligence on developments in market activity, upstream movements, production news and graphs.
These are an essential tool for those involved in the industry to keep abreast of market movements and make crucial commercial choices.
Updated to Q4 2019
The bulk of new paraxylene (PX) capacities were started up during the quarter. Hengyi Petrochemical started up its new 1.5m tonne/year PX unit located in Brunei at the start of the quarter, and began delivering cargoes into China by November. Zhejiang Petrochemical started up its new 2m tonne/year No 1 PX facility at the end of the quarter.
Squeezed margins faced by downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) producers had limited operating rates, thus decreasing the demand for PX. The price spread between PX and PTA declined to around $60-75/tonne, from an average of $150-160/tonne in the preceding quarter. The fourth quarter saw a PTA production loss of around 1.05m tonnes, equivalent to a loss of 695,970 tonnes of PX demand.
European supply of paraxylene (PX) was balanced for much of the fourth quarter, lengthening in late November amid seasonally low demand. Supply tightened in the second half of December. Talk was heard of a production issue impacting the market, but this could not be confirmed.
Demand for PX was weak throughout 2019 due to low consumption from the key downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) sectors.This quiet demand continued for much of the fourth quarter, with a seasonal decrease in consumption in December. However, demand rose in late December in response to tightening supply.
Supply of PX decreased in the fourth quarter as lower PX pricing resulted in poor margins and lower operating rates at selective toluene disproportionation (STDP) units, which convert toluene into benzene and a PX-rich stream of xylenes. In the last weeks of 2019 margins improved, with higher PX prices and lower feedstock costs. Producers waited to see whether this would hold and justify increased operating rates.
Demand for PX decreased in the fourth quarter, on the low season for downstream polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Late in the fourth quarter, interest was seen in competitively priced import cargoes. Tensions between the US and China continued to contribute to a global economic slowdown that has limited demand.
Updated to Q4 2019
Squeezed margins as a result of firm feedstock mixed xylenes (MX), coupled with underperforming prices in the co-product paraxylene (PX) market had limited operating rates. As a result, supply of OX for prompt availability was curbed, with inventories in China stagnant at 10,000-12,000 tonnes.
Downstream phthalic acid (PA) demand was largely soft in the quarter, resulting in weaker prices. Majority of end-users were mostly facing squeezed margins, and thus operating rates were kept low. Furthermore, as a result of the winter season in China, and its policies for a cleaner environment, downstream operating rates were lowered, thus decreasing demand of OX.
European supply of orthoxylene (OX) was balanced at the beginning of the fourth quarter but tightened in late October and remained balanced to tight until late November. Limitations on availability then eased until the second half of December, when supply tightened suddenly. Talk was heard of a production issue impacting the market, but this could not be confirmed.
Demand was generally weak during October and November, though increased demand was seen in late October as reduced availability encouraged buyers to secure volumes.
Consumption decreased seasonally in December, though demand rose late in the month on tight supply as buyers looked to secure volumes.
Although refinery rates were strong, higher values for energy use of feedstock mixed xylenes (MX) made extraction from the gasoline pool less profitable, discouraging orthoxylene (OX) production. This was counterbalanced by softer demand from the construction sector, on seasonality.
Q4 OX demand fell with the end of the traditional peak construction season in the cooler autumn and winter months. Additionally, turnarounds for downstream phthalic anhydride (PA) at both Koppers and Stepan lasted longer than expected, decreasing demand for OX. Global automotive production, a major end-use of OX, was in the doldrums throughout 2019.
We offer the following regional Paraxylene-Orthoxylene analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Paraxylene-Orthoxylene marketplace.
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Paraxylene (PX) is the largest volume isomer of the mixed xylenes. Orthoxylene (OX) is the second largest of the three commercial isomers of xylene.
Paraxylene (PX) is the largest volume isomer of the mixed xylenes. Around 98 percent of PX demand comes from the polyester chain via the one of its intermediates purified terephthalic acid (PTA) or dimethyl terephthalate (DMT). The breakdown for polyester demand is 65 percent from fibre, 27 percent from polyethylene terephthalate(PET) bottle resin and the remainder from film and other plastic end uses. Polyester demand is expected to grow at six percent a year over the next few years with the PET resin bottle market seeing the fastest growth. A small amount of PX is used as a solvent and in the production of di-paraxylene and herbicides.
Paraxylene is a flammable liquid and a fire hazard. When heated to decomposition, paraxylene emits acrid smoke and fumes. Vapours may travel to a source of ignition and flash back.
Orthoxylene (OX) is the second largest of the three commercial isomers of xylene. Almost all OX produced is consumed in the manufacture of phthalic anhydride, which is converted to plasticisers, alkyd and polyester resins. Small quantities are used in solvent applications and to make bactericides, soybean herbicides and lube oil additives. It is also used to make phthalonitrile, which is converted to copper phthalocyanine, a pigment.
Orthoxylene is a flammable liquid and a fire hazard. When heated to decomposition, orthoxylene emits acrid smoke and fumes. Vapours may travel to a source of ignition and flash back.
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