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Updated to Q2 2020
Plasticizers supply remained sufficient to cover rising demand during the quarter. Supply of DOTP recovered gradually before hitting a peak towards the end of June, as the use of non-phthalate plasticizers gained traction in the medical sector amid the coronavirus outbreak. Supply for DOP also rose, as plant run rates rose on improving margins. DINP supply remained generally stable, with plants running at full rates on steady demand.
Plasticizers demand rose despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, supported by an uptick in the production of downstream PVC gloves. Demand was largely seen in China, which emerged from lockdown measures ahead of the rest of the region. DOTP demand surged, amid increased demand from the medical sector. DOP and DINP demand also increased, albeit to a smaller extent.
Plasticizers supply remained more than sufficient to cover the falling demand during Q2. Producers even curtailed operating rates in April and May as the market coped with the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns across Europe. There was still some imported material arriving from South Korea, Russia and Turkey, but this lessened from some regions as the quarter progressed.
Demand collapsed in some segments as a result of the peak of the coronavirus in Europe in April/May. End-use production closures and reductions saw some applications and regions hit harder than others, but it was a very mixed picture depending on the grade, end-use and country. June did start to see some improving demand into some wire and cable sectors and product associated with construction, but automotive remained very weak.
US Q2 supply of DOP, DOTP and DINP was steady but continued to outpace demand on sharp declines in buying interest from construction and automotive markets. Buying interest remained diminished as coronavirus restrictions were still largely in place or beginning to ease, keeping supply ample and creating a lack of storage capacity in some cases. Pricing during the quarterly generally tracked upstream propylene, 2-ethylhexanol and pressure from oversupply.
Demand for DOP, DOTP and DINP in the second quarter was flat to weaker, with demand potentially reaching a floor as major end markets of construction and automobile manufacturing had not yet begun to improve significantly even as coronavirus stay-at-home limits began to be lifted. The construction market showed more emerging strength in the second quarter, while the automotive sector appeared to be lagging construction in terms of plasticizers demand.
Updated to Q3 2020
DOTP plant run rates are expected to rise in Q3, given that demand is likely to remain strong in the near term. DOP plant run rates are also likely to increase, as demand grows with the reopening of economies in the region. Supply for DINP is expected to remain relatively stable.
Demand for DOTP is expected to continue to grow, at least in the near term, amid the protracted coronavirus outbreak. DOP demand is expected to remain healthy, as economic activities continue to resume from the lockdowns. Demand for DINP is expected to remain stable.
There were some signs at the start of Q3 that DINP and DOTP inventory was curtailed in some part due to previously reduced rates due to lower demand during Q2, but also due to reduced imported volume and some local production that saw limitations arising from feedstock restrictions. There were also summer outages confirmed from Grupa Azoty Zak, Deza and Polynt. However, supply is still expected to cover demand in Q3.
July was showing some improved buying compared to June, but not for all, and some customers continued to run at around 50%. Construction and do-it-yourself home improvement are faring better than automotive. There was mixed opinion surrounding August. While some expect traditional outages downstream will be lessened or delayed to try to make up for lost volume in April and May, others feel demand is not yet sufficient to support this and expect a traditional summer lull.
US supply of DOP, DOTP and DINP during the third quarter of 2020 is expected to remain consistently ample even if downstream demand from construction and new-vehicle manufacturing continues to pick up. Some producers may have reduced run rates to match weaker demand during the period, and interest in maintaining large stockpiles waned. Some buyers have exceeded storage capacity, while others appear likely to continue destocking until the market rebounds.
US Q3 2020 DOP, DOTP and DINP demand is expected better as demand continues to gain momentum from construction and automotive manufacturing. But new-vehicle production is not expected to return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2023 or beyond. And demand from either or both sectors may be impeded if the uneven and medically-compromised US emergence from coronavirus lockdowns continues. A mid-Q2 increase in US pending home sales, however, may be a catalyst for broader economic growth.
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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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