The comprehensive and extensive coverage of Polystyrene, compiled by our team of locally-based reporters gives market players up-to-date and in-depth independent and unbiased pricing information. The weekly price assessments are covered in Asia, Middle East, CIS, Europe, the US and Latin America.
There are also margin reports and 12-month rolling series reports for Asia, Europe and the US, while the forecast report looking forward a year is for Europe only. Market news and analysis gives the reader the tools required to make essential commercial decisions. Commentary within the reports includes overviews, demand and supply, production issues, feedstock movements and any other factors influencing the market at the time of publication.
Updated to Q2 2021
Chinese domestic supply was initially sufficient in early Q2, with most units running at high rates. However, supply decreased on some plant problems and stricter government safety checks in June. Supply outside of China was the same, with some unexpected plant problems emerging in April and May in both northeast and southeast Asia.
Demand for PS imports slowed down in China as exports of finished products such as household appliances were limited. Southeast Asian buying was curtailed towards the end of Q2 by overall slow end-user offtake domestically because of ongoing lockdowns, cancelling earlier replenishment demand after the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.
Supply was mixed in Q2, with tightness in April from a lack of styrene, and some recovery in May and June as imports arrived. Supply has been overall balanced for general purpose GPPS material, but with bouts of tightness, particularly for HIPS material in June due to lower outputs and strong appliances demand, with mixed views of recovery approaching July.
Demand across Q2 remains strong from the downstream appliances sector, driven by manufacturer restocking and high outputs. Construction demand has increased for the typical Q2 high season. Q2 food packaging demand remained stable, with expectations by the end of the quarter for a gradual softening of demand and activity due to the move away from single-use plastics.
Supply remained stable from Asia, with no major disruptions. The quantity of GPPS available was stable but supply to the Middle East was affected by the shortage of vessel space and high freight costs. This reduced discussion between buyers in the East Med region and Asian suppliers significantly. Material available from a major Middle East seller remained limited, with most buyers having to rely on material from Asia and Latin America.
Demand in the Middle East remained subdued through Q2, with the pandemic affecting downstream demand for products like disposables. The reduction in travel, due to restrictions in many countries, also negatively impacted PS demand. In India, the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant led to many factory closures, resulting in considerably slow demand. In Bangladesh, demand remained healthy through May and June.
PS supply in Q2 is close to normal levels in most regional markets, but a small plant in Colombia has been offline since Q4 2020. Production in Mexico faced low utilisation rates in early Q2 due to lacking feedstock imports following the polar storm, but rates started improving through May and June. Availability for exports from Brazil improved. Feedstock costs fell on lower styrene monomer (SM) costs due to reduced ethylene and benzene prices.
Demand for PS in Q2 was stable to soft for most regional markets. Demand remained strong in Mexico but has eased in Brazil and is weaker in Argentina. Legislation prohibiting single-use plastics are returning for some cities, states, and countries. Industrial activity in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina has plateaued and low GDP projections limit demand upside. Reduced vehicle production in Brazil has slowed significantly after Ford suspended operations decreasing demand from the sector.
Supplies faced consistent tightness during Q2, due to lingering issues with monomer supplies stemming from the mid-February winter storm. One major producer remained on force majeure throughout much of the quarter, while another key supplier faced operating rate limitations due to monomer shortages. Shortages of co-feedstock BD resulted in reduced availability for HIPS.
Demand remained steady to strong during Q2. Consumption exceeded the depressed levels seen during Q2 2020 – during the initial coronavirus outbreak – returning to levels similar to those seen in 2019. Demand from the electronics and appliance sectors was strong due to healthy demand for durable consumer goods, while food packaging demand rebounded to near 2019 levels.
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Polystyrene (PS) is a thermoplastic polymer and is available in several forms: general purpose (crystal), medium impact, high impact and expandable
The diagram below shows the main method of making polystyrene (PS) from naphtha, a product mainly derived from crude oil.
The diagram below shows the main method of making polystyrene (PS) from naphtha, a product mainly derived from crude oil.
Ethane (or naphtha) with steam is fed into the cracker unit where ethylene and co-products (propylene, butadiene, benzene, etc.) are made. The ethylene and benzene from the cracker are then further processed (catalytic alkylation) to make ethylbenzene.
Polystyrene (PS) is a clear, crystalline resin which burns with a sooty flame. It is soluble in cyclohexane (CX), ethylbenzene (EB), ethyl acetate (etac), carbon disulphide, but insoluble in ether, acetone, phenol and saturated hydrocarbons.
Two main types of PS are produced: crystal or general purpose polystyrene (GPPS) which is a clear, amorphous resin with good stiffness and electrical properties but it is brittle; and medium and high impact polystyrene (HIPS) which contain varying levels of polybutadiene to improve toughness and impact resistance.
Polystyrene is used in a variety of consumer and commercial products with major applications in domestic appliances, construction, electronics, toys and food packaging. Included in food packaging are food and dairy containers, closures, lids, produce baskets, vending cups and fast food containers.
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