We offer short-to-long term solutions – from pricing data, news and market analysis, to supply and demand forecasts, of both phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers, ensuring you can evaluate the markets from every angle.
Updated to Q4 2020
Supply for plasticizers was tight in Q4, with DOTP, DOP and DINP suppliers seeing their production hampered by a shortage in feedstock, particularly INA and 2-EH. Spot supply was also seen to be short, as the impact from the unexpected shutdown of LG Chem’s cracker in Yeosu, South Korea, trickled down to the downstream markets.
Demand for plasticizers rallied in Q4 on the back of greater buying interest ahead of the year-end festive season. Demand for DOTP, which had seen increased use in the medical sector such as for the production of medical gloves, continued to remain healthy amid a protracted recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, demand for DOP and DINP also grew in northeast Asia, largely due to a shortage in Europe and other parts of Asia.
Plasticizers supply tightened through Q4. Reduced imports and some planned and unplanned downtime at the turn of Q4 reduced stocks and it was a challenge to replenish these with demand being healthier than expected. The closure of Korea’s LG cracker in early November put further pressure on the markets and with a lack of imports seen not only from Korea, but reduced from Russia and Turkey too, DOTP ended the year very tight.
Demand gathered some momentum and was stronger than many had anticipated. This was partly due to customers looking to recover volumes lost during the first peak of the pandemic during March and April. Some felt demand was simply returning to more normal levels but was more acutely felt due to lower stocks through the supply chain. Some were also stock-piling and part of this was ahead of Brexit in anticipation of logistic woes in January.
US supply of plasticizers DOP, DOTP and DINP during Q4 tightened on strong demand from construction and automobile manufacturing, delayed imports and short supply of upstream 2-EH. A US producer placed its 2-EH on order control in December. Transportation constraints – truck-driver shortages as well as port and railhead congestion – also were lengthening domestic delivery lead times for some buyers.
US plasticizers demand from automobile production and construction applications, the latter of which include window forms and PVC pipe and fixtures, increased during Q4, contrary to typical year-end patterns. Much of that buying interest was attributed to pent-up demand stemming from previous spring coronavirus lockdowns, which led to the cancellation of construction projects and the temporary shutdowns of most automobile production, and from some restocking for early 2021.
Updated to Q1 2021
Supply of plasticizers is expected to increase in Q1, with some producers restarting their plants from scheduled maintenance and the restart of LG Chem’s cracker in Yeosu, South Korea, Producers are also expected to increase their operating rates amid firm demand. However, tight feedstock supply is expected to limit the increase in plasticizers supply.
Demand for DOTP, DOP and DINP is expected to remain largely stable, as industrial and economic activities in the region make a slow recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although likely to remain challenging, construction and automotive applications are expected pick up in Q1, even as demand for DOTP could remain healthy in the medical sector.
Supply is expected to remain tight. The greatest impact is expected to be seen in DOTP as Europe is heavily reliant on imports, but DINP and DPHP may also see some curtailment, with inventory levels somewhat depleted. DOTP and DINP imports from Korea are expected to remain severely limited in Q1, though some of the DOTP volume could be offset with more Russian material arriving in NWE.
Consumption is set to remain quite robust despite the growing number of coronavirus cases and lockdowns in Europe. However, there is still more optimism given the rollout of the vaccines and many buyers expect a strong start to 2021. Some suggest that demand could be even stronger for plasticizers if there is an improvement in availability of PVC which also remains very tight after production issues in Q4.
US supply of DOP, DOTP and DINP during Q1 is expected steady to tighter, particularly DOTP, which has seen an order control from one feedstock 2-EH producer. Those supply limits may continue well into Q1. No near-term improvement is anticipated in shipping times, domestic truck delays or railhead congestion for any of the plasticizers. Despite optimism about coronavirus vaccines, the pandemic is expected to continue to prompt heightened demand from the packaging sector.
US DOP, DOTP and DINP demand is expected to be steady to stronger in Q1 on momentum from construction and automobile-production markets. Demand from homebuilding is likely to continue leading construction markets in the first quarter, with commercial activity likely to gain momentum if coronavirus vaccines are successfully administered and coronavirus cases begin to diminish significantly. Broad economic uncertainty, however, and unemployment levels may keep year-on-year Q1 demand volumes either below or flat with previous norms.
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Plasticizers are chemical compounds or additives that are added to polymer material to alter the physical properties to achieve certain characteristics such as flexibility and durability. These are applied in various types of products in every industry from synthetic fabrics to plastics packaging and automotive. Plasticizers are categorized into different families falling under phthalates or non-phthalates.
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