The ICIS Polyols reports are published weekly in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. This independent and unbiased pricing information covers a variety of grades including slabstock, high resilience, conventional and foam depending on the region.
Our locally-based network of reporters provide details of the factors affecting price movements. Commentary includes overviews, economic news, graphs, feedstock updates, demand and supply issues. This market intelligence will give you the confidence to make informed business decisions.
Updated to Q4 2019
Polyether polyols’ supply in Asia remained largely ample throughout the fourth quarter, on the back of active production, import availability and sluggish uptake among buyers. Stable performance in the upstream propylene oxide (PO) market also led to limited fluctuation in polyols production. There were limited unforeseen outages seen in the Asian market in the fourth quarter, whereas scheduled shutdown maintenance projects were scarce. Acceptable production margins also kept run rates stable for some regional makers.
Demand for polyether polyols among Asia-based buyers was mostly stable for the earlier part of the fourth quarter, but buying appetite soon waned as the year-end festive period approached. Most buyers sought to keep inventories lean ahead of the festive season and closing of accounts by keeping buying activity strictly to a need-to basis. Downstream demand among foam mattress makers was also persistently described as weak, resulting in slow uptake for slabstock flexible foam lots.
Supply of polyols was ample to excessive in Europe in the fourth quarter. European producers have faced added competition from material imported from the Middle East, but are also competing with Asian exporters in Middle East and African markets. Excess supply was also a result seasonal destocking in Q4, along with depressed demand for flexible slabstock and most other polyurethanes. There were no known outages during the period.
Demand for polyols declined in Europe in the fourth quarter as uptake into the construction, bedding, furniture and automotive sectors failed to improve, pushing prices lower for five consecutive months. A confluence of external factors contributed to the subdued market sentiment, including political uncertainties around Brexit, tensions between the US and China, and a depressed global economic outlook, all of which rattled consumer confidence.
Polyols supply was stable, while spot polyether polyols imports in the Middle East have been stable to soft on stiff price competition and limited demand. There were limited shutdowns or plant disruptions among the main polyols suppliers, but effects on margins from propylene oxide (PO) price declines were countered by stagnant demand.
Flexible polyether polyols players have been largely on the sidelines, with the Middle East market remaining generally stagnant through much of the year. Flexible foam production in the Middle East region has been depressed by slow demand for toluene diisocyantes (TDI) and little improvement has been noted so far due to poor downstream demand from end-users. The rigid polyols market has also been stable-to-soft on weak downstream demand.
US polyol supplies remained long in the fourth quarter as the market was structurally long. Slow uptake from downstream polyurethane systems also kept polyol availability sufficient. No major production issues were heard during the fourth quarter.
Demand for polyols and downstream polyurethane systems was seasonally weaker in the fourth quarter and was generally slower than usual in 2019 relative to 2018. The construction sector, a major consumer of polyurethane systems, entered its traditional slow season in the fourth quarter, after a disappointing high season. The global automotive sector also had a disappointing year in 2019 and this impacted its demand in the fourth quarter.
We offer the following regional Polyols analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Polyols marketplace.
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Polyols are a primary polyurethanes component. A polyol and an isocyanate react to form polyurethane.
Polyols are one of the components used to make polyurethanes, the other being an isocyanate. There are two main types of polyols: polyether polyols and polyester polyols.
Polyether polyols are the most widely used with the main applications being rigid and flexible polyurethane foams. Rigid foams are used mainly in insulation, refrigeration, packaging and construction while flexible foams have applications such as upholstery, mattresses and seats. Polyols can also be used in elastomers, adhesives, coatings and fibres.
Polyester polyols compete with polyether polyols but may be preferred in some rigid foam applications because of their low cost and improved flame retardant properties. They can also provide improved wear resistance, heat aging and chemical resistance in elastomers, coatings, sealants and adhesives.
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