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 Q4 2020
Traders liquidating cargoes ahead of the new year led to increased supply, particularly for the domestic Chinese market. However, supply on the Chinese import front continued to be relatively snug. Optical-grade polycarbonate imports into China were tight as two producers had limited supply. By comparison, GP moulding-grade polycarbonate supply was ample, although somewhat tightened when some GP moulding grade polycarbonate was diverted towards producing compounded polycarbonate.
Weakening bisphenol A feedstock values prompted demand to wane as buyers retreated to a wait-and-see stance, expecting the market to decline further. Buyers bought on a hand-to-mouth basis, with producers and traders noting an overall reduction in the cargo size of spot deals concluded. In addition, traders liquidating cargoes ahead of the new year led to a softer polycarbonate market, further contributing to worsening market sentiment, and consequently to poorer demand.
Supply tightened due to several planned turnarounds, strong demand and limited imports from Asia, where prices reached a two-year record high. Availability problems were exacerbated by rising exports of European PC to Asia, as producers turned their attention to countries like China or South Korea, attracted by pricing. The force majeure announced by Covestro at its PC plant in the US Gulf also diverted material made in the EU to America.
Strong buying appetite from the automotive industry and construction drove demand up in Q4. Other sectors, such as appliances, also placed robust volumes of orders. New restrictions imposed to contain the second wave of the coronavirus also prompted several buyers to stock up on material, to protect themselves from potential logistical disruptions. Buying interest from Asian buyers also put pressure on European pricing.
PC supply was tight throughout Q4. Two of the three major PC plants in the US had outages. SABIC took its 245,000 tonne/year Mount Vernon, Indiana, plant down for planned maintenance for 30 days in early October. Covestro shut its 260,000 tonne/year Baytown, Texas, plant in late August ahead of a hurricane and it has been down since. Covestro declared force majeure in October. Strong Asian and European demand kept imports away.
End-use demand for PC was strong throughout Q4. Domestic demand for medical-grade PC — used in coronavirus testing kits, protective shields, and ventilators – was healthy. The auto industry, which accounts for about 18% of PC demand according to ICIS analytics, had a strong second half of the year after the economic lockdown due to the coronavirus devastated the sector in Q2. Automotive and appliance demand was healthy throughout the quarter.
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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).