The ICIS Polycarbonate report is published weekly in Asia, Europe and the US and monthly in CIS. These reliable and trustworthy reports can help industry players to keep abreast of the latest news and make informed business decisions.
The price assessments largely focus on general purpose (GP) moulding and GP extrusion grades and cover spot or contract, depending on the region. Market intelligence comprises of regional overviews, upstream news, graphs and production updates.
Updated to Q2 2021
Supply was relatively stable, apart from a few plant turnarounds. However, spot supply for different grades of PC varied amid different market fundamentals. Optical grade PC supply continued to be tight as production fell on anticipated soft demand. Extrusion grade PC supply was tight for similar reasons, and as the cost of production for this grade was deemed relatively high by producers. GP moulding grade PC spot supply was relatively ample in comparison.
Demand continued to decrease as buyers demonstrated purchasing resistance amid historically high prices. In addition, some downstream factories ran at reduced rates due to various factors, which included: a global semiconductor chip shortage, electricity shortages in southern China, coronavirus resurgences, and firm feedstock costs. Port congestion also weakened Chinese demand for imported material, particularly in southern China, due to delayed arrivals.
Supply became extremely tight in Q2, leaving most European buyers struggling to get enough material to meet downstream demand. The main reason behind the scarcity of PC was production shutdowns at three US plants in February, following a winter storm. This resulted in major European producers SABIC and Covestro shipping out part of their production to the Americas. High pricing in Asia coupled with high freight rates and lack of containers, also hampered supply levels, limiting imports.
Demand was very robust in Q2, mostly because of the construction sector, which traditionally performs well in Q2. A slight slowdown in the automotive industry was noted due to a global shortage of microchips, although it did not free up enough material to ease the supply tightness. Buying interest from other applications, such as medical, electronic devices and big water bottles remained at high levels.
Supplies were tight throughout the quarter, but production increased after plants recovered from outages caused by the mid-February polar storm. Covestro ended a force majeure on most grades of polycarbonate from its Baytown, Texas, plant in early June and increased operating rates during the quarter. SABIC increased operating rates from its Mt Vernon, Indiana, plant. Feedstock supply gradually improved. All three US PC plants are operating for the first time since 2020.
Demand continued to be robust for medical, automotive, construction and other sectors. PC got a boost from COVID-19-related uses such as point-of-sale barriers, testing kits and ventilators. Demand from the construction and automotive sectors was strong. In a late-May letter, SABIC told customers to expect delays and limited availability of PC. Orders may be delayed or cancelled and lead times of at least 18 weeks would be necessary, according to the letter.
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Polycarbonate (PC) is a type of high specification engineering plastic, suitable for moulding and with a high impact resistance.
Polycarbonate resins are tough thermoplastics with major markets in the electrical/electronic sectors such as computer and business equipment, optical discs, glazing and sheet products and in the automotive construction industries.
Other uses include safety helmets and shields, housing components, household appliances, water cooler bottles, lighting fixtures, sporting goods, and aircraft and missile components.
Polycarbonates are long-chain linear polyesters of carbonic acid and dihydric phenols, such as bisphenol-A (BPA). It is hydroscopic, has only fair chemical resistance and is attacked by many organic solvents.
Polycarbonate is naturally transparent, with the ability to transmit light nearly that of glass. It has high strength, heat resistance, and excellent dimensional and colour stability.
Different grades of the polymer are available and the grades vary by strength, clarity, moulding temperatures, service temperatures and other parameters.
Polycarbonate is also used in compounds or blended with other resins such as acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene (ABS) or polybutylene terephthalate (PBT).
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