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 Q3 2020
Supply was mostly tight throughout Q3, as steep gains in upstream PO prices in China’s import market led to high production costs for polyols makers. Some integrated producers cut output to focus on selling PO instead amid the PO shortage. The related TDI market also observed price hikes. Polyols registered significant jumps, as snug availability pushed producers and traders to offer at higher levels.
China and southeast Asia polyols cargo uptake registered significant improvement in Q3, as most lockdowns and movement restriction policies had eased. Trade resumed for most market players. Ongoing investigations by the US on southeast Asia-origin foam mattresses for dumping led to increased demand for mattresses from US buyers, ahead of any potential ADD imposed. With prices rising for upstream PO, most polyols buyers were looking to secure stocks before prices climbed.
Supply was considerably tighter in Q3 as surging prices of upstream PO meant that producers found it difficult to ramp up production levels. Additionally, demand from other markets such as the US and Latin America meant that cargo allocations to the Middle East were lowered to some extent.
Strong demand for downstream polyurethane foams drove demand for polyols in Q3, as consumption of automobiles, furniture and other foam applications surged after lockdown measures eased. Buyers were also in need of restocking after having depleted their polyols stocks.
Supply was mixed in Q3 as demand for flexible foams improved sharply, beating producer expectations. A feedstock EO disruption linked to Shell’s Moerdijk cracker and other production issues helped to tighten the market. At the end of Q3, high PO prices in Asia helped to reduce imports and promote exports from Europe to the Middle East.
Demand for polyols grew in Q3 as downstream demand for flexible foam surged amid a boom in spending on home improvements, including bedding and furnishings. Demand from the automotive sector was slower to improve than others, most of which have seen consumption normalise after a drop in the first half.
Polyol supply tightened significantly during the third quarter in North America. Production rates were cut back in Q2 as demand declined dramatically and production rates were adjusted based on the assumption that demand would remain depressed heading into Q3. Q3 demand, however, recovered faster than most analysts expected, resulting in large inventory drawdowns and a mismatch between production and demand.
Demand for polyols and downstream polyurethane systems recovered quickly in Q3 after a steep drop in demand during Q2 during the periods of strictest coronavirus-related restrictions on economic activity. Demand for furniture and bedding applications rose to at or above pre-crisis levels as consumers spent more money on home improvements. The automotive sector also came back strongly, with vehicle and vehicle component operating rates rising significantly from the very low levels seen in Q2.
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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