Understanding the world’s most widely used plastic
Discover the factors influencing polyethylene (PE) markets
From the packaging on our food to the paints in our homes, polyethylene (PE) surrounds us as by far the largest commodity plastic by overall volume. It is essential to our daily lives. With countless applications in everyday materials, it is crucial for anyone with an active interest in the market to understand what is driving PE markets. Adapting efficiently to the significant changes in how it is being produced and consumed around the world is key.
Now more than ever before, trusted market data and intelligent analytics can play a vital role in helping you make the best decisions to maximise PE opportunities and minimise risk. At ICIS, this is what we do. We exist to make markets such as PE more trusted, transparent and predictable by delivering world-class commodity intelligence, derived from our unparalleled network of global experts.
Other plastics that we cover
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.
Learn about our solutions for polyethylene (PE)
Pricing, news and analysis
Maximise profitability in uncertain markets with ICIS’ full range of solutions for PE, including current and historic pricing, forecasts, supply and demand data, news and analysis.
Capitalise on opportunity with specialised analytics offering reliable chemicals margins, costs, supply, demand, capacity and trade flow data. Meet sustainability goals with ICIS’ innovative analytics.
ICIS Webinar: Outlook for Asia PP/PE markets
Get key polypropylene and polyethylene insights from ICIS experts, from supply & demand to sustainability.
28 February 2024 | 5pm to 6pm SGT
Polyethylene (PE) news
Latin America stories: weekly summary
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 23 February. NEWS Argentina manufacturing output falls 12% in December Argentina’s recession is hitting the petrochemicals-intensive manufacturing sectors hard, with output down 11.9% in December, year on year, the country’s statistics body Indec said late on Thursday. Mexico’s secondary activities output up 1.2% year on year in December Output in Mexico’s petrochemicals-intensive secondary activities rose in December by 1.2%, year on year, the country’s statistics office Inegi said this week. Pause in PVC projects ‘prudent’ until prices rise to $1,200/tonne – Orbia CEO Depressed global polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices prompted Orbia to take the “prudent” decision to put new projects on hold, the CEO of the Mexican chemical producer said on Thursday. Petrochemicals margins could worsen in 2024 – Mexico’s Alpek Mexican chemicals producer Alpek’s stock was falling more than 3% on Wednesday afternoon after the company issued a downbeat guidance for 2024 in which petrochemicals margins could worsen from the already weak 2023 averages. Brazil's Braskem Q4 main chemicals, resins sales fall on lower demand Braskem’s main chemicals and resins sales in its domestic market fell by 15% and 9%, respectively, in the fourth quarter, year on year, on the back of persistent poor demand, the Brazilian petrochemicals major said this week. Brazil’s Unigel gets green light from creditors for debt restructuring Unigel has agreed a Brazilian reais (R) 3.9 billion ($791 million) debt restructuring with its creditors, which has saved the beleaguered styrenics, acrylics and fertilizer producer from filing for bankruptcy for the time being. US Stepan recovering LatAm surfactants market share, margins – CEO Stepan is recovering its share in the Latin American surfactants market following supply chain disruptions in the second half of 2022, Scott Behrens, CEO of the US-based company, said on Tuesday. PRICINGLat Am PP domestic prices fall in Colombia on cheaper imports Domestic polypropylene (PP) prices were down in Colombia due to more competitive prices for imported products. In other Latin American countries, prices were steady. Lat Am PE buyers on the sidelines waiting for March prices Domestic, international polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed unchanged this week across Latin American countries. Mexico PET industry expecting stable sales during the upcoming peak bottle season Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) prices in Mexico held steady this week, with weak demand and ample supply in February. Brazil ethanol sales continue to face positive results in 2024 According to Unica, Brazil's ethanol sales grew by 38.22% in January over the same time frame in 2023. With this achievement, sales volume has surpassed its highest point since October 2020.
Europe top stories: weekly summary
LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 23 February. Europe PE/PP contract prices reach three figure hikes for February Contract prices for European polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) have settled upwards from initial moves earlier in February, in the pivotal third week of the month. Chemical firms back call for stronger business environment in EU The chief executives of BASF, INEOS, Covestro, Clariant and Dow Europe among others on Tuesday backed a new declaration calling for stronger European Commission prioritisation of business, calling for an industrial deal to be placed at the core of the new Parliament. Europe propylene limitations raise concerns down value chain The European propylene (C3) supply and demand balance is in a tighter than expected position due to a combination of healthy demand and planned and unplanned production constraints. BASF navigates low-growth environment as China Verbund spending continues As BASF prepares to provide more detail on its 2023 financial performance, the Germany-based chemicals major is to navigate the still-chilly waters of 2024 as spending on its flagship China Verbund site in Zhanjiang continues and project pipelines face ever-tougher scrutiny. INSIGHT: EU chemicals plead for help while production sinks to 1999 levels As chemical production in Europe plunges to levels last seen during the 2008/9 financial crisis and back in 1999, industry leaders are urging the EU to improve the regulatory framework and do more to protect them from unfair competition. But with the fundamentals of supply and demand so out of balance globally, there are limits to how much politicians can achieve in Europe.
Asia top stories – weekly summary
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 23 February 2024. Asia BD spot market buoyant with active China exports By Ai Teng Lim 23-Feb-24 10:54 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Discussions for Asian butadiene (BD) imports picked up this week as China embarked on active export sales. SE Asia PE March offers firmer as tight Middle East supply persists By Izham Ahma 22-Feb-24 10:12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Initial spot import offers for March polyethylene (PE) shipments in southeast Asia were announced firmer in the week ending 23 February, with many major Middle Eastern suppliers still showing limited spot volume available. Japan January chemical exports up 11%; overall shipments at record high By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Feb-24 13:20 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Japan's chemical shipments in January rose by 11.2% year on year to yen (Y) 865.9bn ($5.8bn), with overall exports hitting a record high for the month, thus, easing some concerns over Asia's highly industrialised economy which tipped into a technical recession in the second half of 2023. Asia petchem markets await China's demand signals after holiday By Nurluqman Suratman 19-Feb-24 13:56 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's petrochemical markets will closely watch China's demand signals after the Lunar New Year holiday amid ongoing concerns about the country’s economic health. PODCAST: Asian olefins to see support amid tighter supply, Panama congestion persists By Julia Tan 21-Feb-24 19:51 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's ethylene (C2) market saw supply tighten amid fewer volumes from the US in Q1 as a direct result of congestion at the Panama Canal.
VIDEO: Europe R-PET FD NWE colourless flake prices rise again in February
LONDON (ICIS)–Senior Editor for Recycling Matt Tudball discusses the latest developments in the European recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market, including: Further rises in FD NWE colourless flake in February Flake and bale prices rise in eastern Europe Demand driven by restocking, tight availability
Pembina to supply Dow Canada net-zero petchem project with ethane
TORONTO (ICIS)–Canadian midstream energy firm Pembina Pipeline has entered into long-term agreements to supply Dow’s upcoming net-zero petrochemicals project at Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta province with 50,000 bbl/day of ethane. Pembina is a major supplier of ethane to the petrochemical industry in Alberta. Dow announced in November that it will proceed with the construction of a new integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives facility in Fort Saskatchewan, to be completed in two phases, with in-service dates of 2027 and 2029. The first phase of the "Path2Zero Project" includes about 1.285 million tonnes/year of ethylene and polyethylene (PE) capacity and the second phase adds another 600,000 tonnes/year. Dow’s project represents “a significant increase” to the current ethane market in Alberta and is an important development for the oil and gas industry in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), Pembina said. To support Dow's project, Pembina is evaluating several possible options to invest in new infrastructure, including incremental deep-cut processing capacity at certain gas plants, de-ethanizer expansions at existing fractionation facilities, potential new straddle facilities, and smaller expansion opportunities, it said. Furthermore, the Path2Zero Project will directly drive incremental ethane demand, the extraction of which should also increase the supply of other associated natural gas liquids (NGL) – propane, butane and condensate, Pembina said. The resulting NGL volume growth across the WCSB would benefit Pembina over a period of many years and support higher utilization and potential expansions of its asset its Alberta, it said. Pembina's assets include gas processing facilities, the Redwater fractionation complex, the Peace and Northern pipeline systems, the Alberta Ethane Gathering System, and storage facilities. Thumbnail photo of Pembina’s Redwater fractionation complex north east of Edmonton, Alberta; photo source: Pembina
QatarEnergy, CP Chem start building $6bn Ras Laffan polymers complex
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–QatarEnergy and US’ Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) have started construction of their joint venture integrated polymers complex at Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar. The $6bn project will include an ethane cracker with capacity of 2.08m tonnes/year of ethylene, making it the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East and one of the largest globally, CP Chem said late on Monday. It will also include two high-density polyethylene (PE) derivative units with a total capacity of 1.68m tonnes/year. The two firms secured $4.4bn in financing for the Ras Laffan project in October last year. The PE units will use CP Chem’s MarTech loop slurry process to produce high-density PE (HDPE), which will be primarily meant for exports. The project is being developed by a 30:70 joint venture company of CP Chem and QatarEnergy. “This project advances CP Chem’s long-held strategy to expand its operations in regions where feedstock is reliable and abundant and will help meet the global demand for polyethylene products," CP Chem president and CEO Bruce Chinn said. Qatar holds the third-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world which positions it as a key player in the global energy market and a primary exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). CP Chem is providing project management services to oversee the engineering, procurement and construction of the facility. The Ras Laffan Petrochemical Complex is Qatar Energy’s largest investment in the local petrochemicals sector, the Qatari firm said in a separate statement issued on 19 February. The project will raise Qatar’s overall petrochemical production capacity to about 14m tonnes/year by the end of 2026, it said. “There is no doubt that this is an important landmark in QatarEnergy’s downstream expansion strategy as it will reinforce our integrated position as a global energy player and generate significant economic benefits for the country,” Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi said. CP Chem and QatarEnergy operate three joint ventures in Qatar, namely, Qatar Chemical Co, Qatar Chemical Company II, and Ras Laffan Olefins Co. In the US, the two companies, through their Golden Triangle Polymers joint venture, are also building a similar integrated polymers facility in Orange, Texas, which is expected to start up in 2026. Thumbnail image: Qatar minister of state for energy affairs Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi on 19 February 2024 (Source: QatarEnergy)
Asia top stories – weekly summary
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 16 February 2024. Singapore Jan petrochemical exports rise 8.7%, NODX up 16.8% By Nurluqman Suratman 16-Feb-24 09:55 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Singapore’s petrochemical exports in January rose by 8.7% year on year to Singapore dollar (S$) 1.11bn ($822m), with non-oil domestic exports (NODX) posting a 16.8% growth for the month, official data showed on Friday. Asia fatty acids market faces cost pressures on strong palm oil prices By Helen Yan 15-Feb-24 13:10 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s fatty acids market is likely to face costs pressures from recent spikes in upstream crude palm oil (CPO) prices, while demand is expected to stay tepid. PODCAST: Asia R-PE, R-PET see slow 2023; legislations, waste management to shape future By Damini Dabholkar 15-Feb-24 14:07 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia recycled polymers markets were sluggish for the most part in 2023. In early 2024 too, challenges that dim the short-term outlook persist. INSIGHT: Indonesia polls raise questions over Nusantara, import curbs By Pearl Bantillo 13-Feb-24 19:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Indonesia, southeast Asia’s biggest economy, will go to the polls on 14 February to elect a new president, posing uncertainties on continuity of economic policies, from import restrictions coming into effect in March to incumbent President Joko Widodo’s flagship project of building a new capital called Nusantara in Kalimantan province. Asian EPDM market quiet amid holidays; demand outlook mixed By Ai Teng Lim 13-Feb-24 17:22 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Discussions for Asian spot imports of ethylene propylene diene-monomer (EPDM) ground to a halt this week, with much of Asia out of action on extended Lunar New Year holidays.
Global interest in US R-PET market intensifies in both feedstock, finished product
HOUSTON (ICIS)–As global markets continue to become more interconnected, many regions outside the US have taken interest in the domestic recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market as both a potential area of feedstock supply, as well as a destination for finished flake and pellet cargoes. Market participants confirm they have seen a notable rise in imported R-PET activity from Asia and Latin America, particularly due to their cost-competitive position in light of cheaper ocean freight rates in 2023. US recyclers were heard to be supplementing their operations with imported feedstock. Several recyclers now purchase cheap spot or imported R-PET flake to process into their food grade pellet product, and potentially redirecting their internally produced flake from high cost domestic bale feedstock to sell directly to customers. In the long term, the US will have to seek imports of bale or flake feedstock, not just due to the cost driver but to feed growing plastic recycling capacities amid stagnant plastic collection rates domestically. Recently released trade data from the US Census Bureau shows US imports of plastic scrap – noted by the HS code 3915- continue to increase, having jumped 5% year on year to a total of 446,778 tonnes in 2023. Plastic scrap imports include items such as used bottles, but also other forms of recycled feedstock such as purge, leftover pairings and now also flake material. Specifically, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) scrap imports increased substantially in 2023, jumping 33% year on year to a record setting 204,278 tonnes in 2023. When looking at the geographic regions of the top 10 origin countries of US PET scrap imports, Mexico and Canada make up 34% of volume, tied with Asian countries at 34%, then followed by Latin America at 15%, Africa 5% and non-top 10 countries at 12%. The largest sender of PET scrap was Canada at 59,247 tonnes, increasing 21% by volume year on year. The second largest sender was Thailand, coming in at 23,346 tonnes, a 157% increase year on year. PET imports from Thailand now make up 11% of the total US PET plastic scrap imports, trailing Canada at 29%. Thailand's PET scrap export activity to the US has grown significantly, increasing 415% by volume in comparison to 2019. Similarly, Ecuador has step-wise increased the volume of PET scrap being sold to the US market, jumping 63% year on year and 414% since 2019, and thus becoming the third largest sender in 2023. Despite recent increases in ocean freight due to ongoing logistics challenges in the Red Sea and Panama Canal, imported flake prices continue to be price competitive in the US market. Imported flake prices on the West Coast were heard at 45-46 cents/lb DEL. East Coast imported flake was heard in the range of 52-55 cents/lb DEL. When looking at PET scrap export trends, volumes have fallen in 2023, but appear to be picking up again in the first quarter of 2024. PET scrap exports fell 14% year on year to 65,556 tonnes, which was mainly driven by decreased export activity to Germany. Volumes of PET scrap sent to Germany dropped 40% year on year , down to 6,156 tonnes. This is likely attributed to the fact that both the US and European recycled plastics markets saw lackluster demand in 2023, paired with fierce competition from lower cost virgin cargoes. Contrary to that trend, exported of PET scrap to Mexico increased 15% year on year, making up 54% of all US PET scrap exports. Across the northern hemisphere where cooler weather persists, R-PET markets typically experience peak of bottle bale supply tightness due to lower bottled beverage consumption. As a result, several regions have seen increased PET bottle bale pricing as supply has been limited. While the US is also has seen lower PET bale volumes, prices have yet to substantially move, thus making bale export opportunities much more attractive. At present, aggressive buying activity from Mexican recyclers continues to drive up US PET bale prices. Exports to Mexico have always made up a small portion of US PET bale sales from southern California or states like Texas, though the current activity has been notably strong. This is likely due to increased PET recycling capacity now in Mexico within the last year, as well as increased demand in Mexico from brand companies sourcing R-PET locally. Mexican PET bale prices were heard as high as 37-39 cents/lb locally. On the East Coast, deposit bales continue to be used domestically but also exported to Asian recyclers. While the US R-PET market in some ways has benefited from theses global trade partnerships, others note that competitive pellet imports continue to destroy domestic demand and foreign interest in bale feedstock has driven up pricing. As the US R-PET market continues to develop, there is no end in sight to influence from other regions. Focus by Emily Friedman
INSIGHT: 2023 marks first year as US net plastic scrap importer, driven by PET imports increasing 33% year on year
HOUSTON (ICIS)–2023 was a year of record changes within US plastic scrap trade. While some relationships remain steadfast, such as the plastic scrap trade between North American partners Canada, Mexico and the US, other relationships are growing in strength, such as US importing activity from Asia, particularly for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic scrap. US becomes net importer of plastic scrap for the first time US PET scrap imported increase 33% year on year Canada, Mexico comprise 55% of US scrap exports, 58% of US scrap imports Full year trade data from the US Census Bureau shows US imports of plastic scrap – noted by the HS code 3915- continue to increase, having jumped 5% year on year to a total of 446,778 tonnes in 2023. Plastic scrap imports include items such as used bottles, but also other forms of recycled feedstock such as purge, leftover pairings and now also flake material. This comes at a time when domestic market conditions for recycled plastics are mixed. Many grades of plastic which are used for cost-sensitive applications, such as those which go into construction materials or durable good and packaging, have seen a severe withdrawal of demand, as low cost virgin material continues to flood the market. Even grades of sustainability driven recycled plastics, such as those going into consumer goods applications like beverages and personal care, have seen weaker market conditions domestically, as customers switch to imported recycled resin. Supporting the increase in imported scrap plastic, US recyclers who continue to have strong order volumes were heard to be supplementing their operations with imported feedstock. Several recyclers now purchase cheap spot or imported R-PET flake to process into their food grade pellet product and redirect their internally produced flake from high cost domestic bale feedstock to sell directly to customers. In the long term, the US will seek imports of bale or flake feedstock not just due to the cost driver but to feed growing plastic recycling capacities amid stagnant plastic collection rates domestically. Intra-North American recycled plastic trade relationships continue to show strength, as Canada and Mexico not only dominate as the origin location of plastic scrap import but also as top export destinations for US plastic scrap exports. 58% of the plastic scrap imported by the US came from Canada and Mexico combined, though Mexico's volumes notably dropped year on year, down 35% compared to 2022. Picking up the slack, US plastic scrap imports from Thailand increased by 103% year on year. Thailand is now the third largest country of imported plastic scrap origin. PET imports show tremendous growth The majority of plastic scrap received from Thailand was of the PET subcategory, coming in at 23,346 tonnes, a 157% increase year on year from Thailand alone. PET imports from Thailand now make up 11% of the total US PET plastic scrap imports, trailing Canada at 29%. Thailand's PET scrap export activity to the US has grown significantly, increasing 415% by volume in comparison to 2019. Similarly, Ecuador has step-wise increased the volume of PET scrap being sold to the US market, jumping 63% year on year and 414% since 2019. Market participants confirm they have seen a notable rise in imported recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) activity from Asia and Latin America, particularly due to their cost-competitive position in light of cheaper ocean freight rates in 2023. Imported PET scrap from Canada also saw a large change, increasing 21% by volume year on year to 59,247 tonnes. When looking at the geographic regions of the top 10 origin countries of US PET scrap imports, Mexico and Canada make up 34% of volume, tied with Asian countries at 34%, then followed by Latin America at 15%, Africa 5% and non-top 10 countries at 12%. In general, PET scrap imports increased substantially in 2023, jumping 33% year on year to a record setting 204,278 tonnes in 2023. When looking at the data by comparing quarters year-on-year, it is clear the market continues to face increased volatility. This is showcased by the wide swings in import volumes since 2020, when prior, quarterly import volumes were much more stable. Polyethylene (PE) also continues to be a leading polymer type for US plastic scrap imports, coming in at 63,206 tonnes in 2023. Of that volume, Canada is by far the largest contributor at 72%. On the other hand, PE scrap exports have fallen 16% year on year, likely due to lessened manufacturing activity amid macroeconomic pressure in 2023. Plastic scrap imports continue historic downward trend Similarly , PET scrap exports fell 14% year on year to 65,556 tonnes, which was mainly driven by decreased export activity to Germany. Volumes of PET scrap sent to Germany dropped 40% year on year, down to 6,156 tonnes. This is likely attributed to the fact that both the US and European recycled plastics markets saw lackluster demand in 2023, paired with fierce competition from lower cost virgin cargoes. Contrary to that trend, exported of PET scrap to Mexico increased 15% year on year, making up 54% of all US PET scrap exports. At present, aggressive buying activity from Mexican recyclers continues to drive up US PET bale prices. Exports to Mexico have always made up a small portion of US PET bale sales from southern California or states like Texas, though the current activity has been notably strong. This is likely due to increased PET recycling capacity now in Mexico within the last year, as well as increased demand in Mexico from brand companies sourcing R-PET locally. Similar to the US, this time of year when the weather is cooler results in lower consumption of beverages and thus a tighter supply of bottles available for collection. In general, US plastic scrap exports continue to follow a downward trend since 2017, dropping another 4% year on year. This trend has resulted in the US becoming a net plastic scrap importer, as total scrap trade is import positive at 26,408 tonnes. To reinforce how significant this change is, as of 2014 the US was net exporting 1,765,917 tonnes. Among the top destination countries for US plastic scrap exports were Canada, Mexico and India, Malaysia and Vietnam, with Canada and Mexico accounting for 55% of the overall volume in 2023.
VIDEO: Europe R-PET Colourless bale prices rise in southern, eastern Europe
LONDON (ICIS)–Senior editor for recycling, Matt Tudball, discusses the latest developments in the European recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market, including: Colourless flake prices rise in southern, eastern Europe markets Eastern Europe bale prices continue upward trend Many demand factors still at play in Europe
Events and training
Build your networks and grow your business at ICIS’ industry-leading events. Hear from high-profile speakers on the issues, technologies and trends driving commodity markets.
Keep up to date in today’s dynamic commodity markets with expert online and in-person training covering chemicals, fertilizers and energy markets.
In today’s dynamic and interconnected chemicals markets, partnering with ICIS unlocks a vision of a future you can trust and achieve. We leverage our unrivalled network of chemicals industry experts to support our partners as they transact today and plan for tomorrow. Capitalise on opportunity, with a comprehensive market view based on trusted data, insight and analytics.
Get in touch today to find out more.