Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
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Discover the factors influencing polyethylene terephthalate (PET) markets
Utilised universally for synthetic fibers, films, packaging and bottle production, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. As it is the world’s recyclable packaging choice for many foods and beverages, it is crucial for market participants to stay in touch with each driver and every movement in the PET marketplace.
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Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) news
Commercial production at Methanex's Geismar 3 in Louisiana delayed until late Q3
LONDON (ICIS)–Commercial production at Methanex's newly constructed 1.8 million tonne/year methanol plant, Geismar 3, has been delayed, potentially until the end of Q3, the Canadian producer announced. During the plant's initial start-up, there were complications with the unit's autothermal reformer (ATR). In a press release, Methanex said that following inspections, there was significant damage to a large number of supporting refractory bricks in the ATR which needed replacing. It is estimated that the total capital cost will not significantly exceed the upper end of the capital cost guidance of $1.30bn. Gesimar 3 is located in Louisiana and was originally scheduled to start up in Q4 2023. In Methanex's Q4 earnings report last month, it said the plant was in the process of starting up and was expected to reach full rates in February. The producer said, "Based on the preliminary findings of its root cause analysis, management believes that this issue relates to complications in the initial start-up process and is not a plant design or construction issue." Methanol is primarily used to produce formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid. Smaller amounts go into production of dimethyl terephthalate (DMT), methyl methacrylate (MMA), chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers, and fuels applications such dimethyl ether (DME), biodiesel and the direct blending into gasoline.
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
BLOG: Record levels of oversupply and the “Doublespeak” of the old market language
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson. Global polyolefins markets are such that the old phrases we use have become "Doublespeak", hiding real meanings. For example, recent mentions of "tight markets" on the Red Sea crisis and a wave of shutdowns should be read as "slightly less long markets". Stick with the data which always gives you the true perspective: Global polyethylene (PE) capacity exceeding demand is forecast to average 26m tonnes a year in 2024-2030, according to the ICIS Supply & Demand Database. This compares with just 7m tonnes a year in 1993-2023 (1993 marked the start of “China’s economic miracle”). Global polypropylene (PP) capacity exceeding demand is forecast to average 24m tonnes a year in 2024-2030 versus 6m tonnes a year in 1993-2023. So far in 2024, average NEA PE integrated variable cost margins have fallen to minus 27 under the blog's new margins index, a record low. NEA integrated naphtha-based variable cost PP margins have so far this year been at minus 28 in another new index, equalling the previous record low in 2022. The average China CFR PE price spread – weighted for the different grades – over CFR Japan naphtha costs has fallen to just $73/tonne so far this year, the lowest since our price assessments began in 1993. And while you stick with the data, remember this essential context: China's economy is undergoing a long-term structural slowdown. Get used to it and come to us for advice about what you should do next. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.
INSIGHT: Low virgin chemicals pricing intensifies sustainable transition challenge – Borealis CEO
LONDON (ICIS)–Lower pricing for virgin petrochemicals in Europe on the back of a prolonged demand trough is exacerbating the challenge of building out sustainable products portfolios into a core spine of a chemicals business, according to the CEO of Borealis. The Austria-based petrochemicals producer is in the process of substantially increasing its sustainable and circular products offerings, completing its acquisition of Italy-based recycled polypropylene specialist Rialti in November. The company also agreed to acquire Integra Plastics, a Bulgaria-based producer of recycled polyethylene and polypropylene, that month. VIRGIN VS RECYCLED The push to develop circular products as a core plank of Borealis’ operations have become more difficult amid strained profitability and low pricing for conventional plastics, according to CEO Thomas Gangl. “What we want to do is focus on establishing circularity as a viable business,” he said. “This is tricky in general, and even more tricky in times of low prices for virgin material. On the other hand, I truly believe that this is not an optional topic, and is the way forward and we see for Borealis.” “The current environment, with lower demand for products, lower prices and margins, has of course been a difficult situation for us as well. Even more difficult in this environment, is making the mid- and long-term structural changes that we need,” he added. Lower pricing for virgin material has been a challenge for the mechanical recycling sector, with production units tending to be smaller-scale than gigantic fossil-based petrochemicals production plant, and utilising newer technology. Those market characteristics can make for higher costs, and periods of cheap and plentiful fossil-based materials regularly challenge the pace of recycled product market adoption. “We need to go to a more circular product portfolio. During times when the material is so cheap, it is very difficult to afford for customers to buy something with a premium. That is a challenging situation for the transformation,” he said. PERFORMANCE The company reported 2023 operating profit of €18m for its European asset base, excluding its nitrogen fertilizers business, which it sold to AGROFERT in July last year. The long-anticipated divestment has also allowed the company to simplify its approach to moving into a more circular business model, according to Gangl. "The proceeds that we have received from the sale were very good, and it is also about focus in difficult times. With the transformation towards circularity, we need to focus on the polyolefin business, and the nitrogen business was a big distraction from a management point of view," he said. The 2023 figure is a huge decline from the €703m generated -also excluding fertilizers – the previous year, amid high inflation and weaker margins and negative inventory effects. “The European asset base that Borealis is operating, excluding the big joint ventures such a Borouge, recorded €18m operating profit in 2023, a small profit compared to the record year 2022, but 2023 was a tough year for our industry, especially so for European based part of our industry, with high energy prices, inflation, a lot of imports," said CFO Daniel Turnheim. "Don't get me wrong, we are anything but happy with that sum, but it's still in a solid positive territory," he added. Slow ramp-ups and production issues for some new assets at Baystar, the company’s Texas joint venture with Total, also limited profitability last year. This is due in part to the 625,000 tonne/year scale of the polyethylene unit, which can present unique challenges when ramping up output “With this as the biggest machine ever built, you would expect to see some ramp-up curve… but we are convinced that this year this ramp-up curve will be continued and hopefully at the end of the year we will see a very stable operation,” Turnheim said. NO BIG SHIFTS IN 2024 No strong improvements are expected this year compared to last, with OMV projecting that operating margins for its European olefins and polyolefins assets will slip further in 2024, despite polymer sales and cracker operating rates projected to increase. OMV holds a 75% stake in the business, with Borealis standing as the Austria-based oil and gas major’s key foothold in downstream petrochemicals. OMV is in talks with Abu Dhabi sovereign oil major ADNOC on potential closer cooperation on petrochemicals, including the combination of subsidiaries of Borealis and Borouge as equal partners. Gangl declined to comment on the talks. Europe indicator operating margins (/tonne) 2024 (projected) 2023 Ethylene 490 507 Propylene 370 389 Polyethylene 320 322 Polypropylene 320 355 “I think what we really will see in 2024 is that the situation is not substantially different to 2023,” said Gangl. “It will be another challenging year. And so everyone has, therefore, focus on topics where there is the highest value to be delivered." Like most European players, an ever-intensifying focus on costs and efficiencies is the order of the day, Gangl said, with further consolidation in producers’ European asset base a strong possibility. !We've done a lot in working on margins, pricing, variable costs, fixed costs. This is the name of the game for European players, and therefore we need to continue this journey,” he said. “We have seen some first closures of assets last year and also here I expect that the one or the other will be added in the next years,” he added. LEGISLATIVE REFORM With the institution of a new European Parliament later this year as part of a wave of general elections that will see changes in national leadership for nearly half the population of the globe, sustainability legislation is likely to see some shake-ups. Marco Mensink, director general of European chemicals trade body Cefic, has predicted that Commission support on sustainability investment will be focused on the first movers and the highest spenders as industrial strategy rises up the agenda. With the sustainability transition comprised of the reinvention of numerous value chains and those shifts needing to happen in parallel to create a circular economy, what is lacking beyond investment is clarity, according to Gangl. “We are not happy with the timing of what is required from legislation and what we need to do now. We are taking steps without knowing exactly what the legislation will look like, and this is of course creating some issues,” he said. The US Inflation Reduction Act includes scope to cover operational expenses for new production units in value chains that may not yet be profitable, and an issue in Europe remains an obstacle to maturity of cleaner feedstock product markets, Gangl added. “We can for example, produce more products derived from bio-based feedstocks but as long as this is not supported by legislation, customers will not pay the extra costs for that. And this is where we then need a lot of smaller investments as well,” he said. “So it's not only one big investment, it's many smaller investments, and these will be delayed if there is no change in the approach by regulators,” he added. Insight by Tom Brown Thumbnail photo: Borealis' office in Taylorsville, US. Source: Borealis Clarification: recasts seventh paragraph
India’s HPCL eyes Jan 2025 start-up for 9m tonne/year Rajasthan refinery
MUMBAI (ICIS)–India’s Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) expects to begin commercial operations at its greenfield 9m tonnes/year refinery at Barmer in the western Rajasthan state by January 2025, a senior company official said on Wednesday. “Once the refinery comes on stream, the petrochemical plants at the complex will be commissioned in a phased manner in around three months,” the official said. The refinery and petrochemical complex which is being built at a cost of nearly Indian rupee (Rs) 730bn ($8.8bn), has achieved nearly 80% mechanical completion and is expected to cater to increasing demand in north India, he added. The refinery will initially operate at around 80% of capacity, with full capacity utilisation expected by 2027, he said. Once operational, the petrochemical complex will have a polypropylene (PP) unit with two 490,000 tonne/year lines; and a linear low density polyethylene/high density polyethylene (LLDPE/HDPE) swing plant with two 416,000 tonnes/year lines. The complex will also produce 240,000 tonnes/year of butadiene (BD). The project has faced delays and cost escalation since work on the project started in 2018. It is being developed by HPCL Rajasthan Refinery Limited (HRRL), a 74:26 joint venture between Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) and the Rajasthan state government. ($1= Rs83.1)
PODCAST: Petcore Europe 2024 – key takeaways for R-PET market
LONDON (ICIS)–Senior editor for recycling, Matt Tudball, and senior analyst for plastics recycling, Helen McGeough discuss the key takeaways from the recent Petcore Europe Annual Conference held in Brussels on 7-8 February. Highlights include: Legislation updates from the European Commission and European Parliament Growth in Petcore working groups to tackle wider PET market issues Textiles recycling Depolymerisation technology Tray to tray market developments
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