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 2019
Polystyrene (PS) supply was largely healthy, with the majority of regional producers maintaining full operating rates due to an extremely favourable spread with feedstock styrene monomer (SM). The PS-SM spread has been at extremely healthy levels since October 2018, with the spread at $230/tonne in the week ended 17 May. PS producers typically require a spread of $120/tonne against SM to breakeven. A production loss of around 2,500 tonnes was observed in southeast Asia because of an unexpected turnaround.
The demand for PS was robust in the second quarter. Demand from the food packaging sector was firm and end-users in China were keen to restock general-purpose PS (GPPS), while demand from the refrigerator-making sector supported the consumption for high-impact PS (HIPS). The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is observed in most countries in southeast Asia and particularly the Muslim-dominant countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, ends with the Eid ul-Fitr holiday that is typically accompanied by spikes in demand for food packaging, a key downstream sector for PS.
European polystyrene (PS) supply improved in Q2 as Trinseo’s upstream production issues eased at its plant in Bohlen, Germany and high impact PS availability lengthened. Total announced that it would close one line at its El Pratt plant in Spain at the end of June. Imports of Iranian, Russia and Turkish origin material were heard imported through much of the quarter, but it was unclear just how substantial the quantities on offer were.
PS demand was lacklustre in key markets as destocking occurred in the UK and Ireland following a delay to Brexit after months of stock building in preparation for the event. Bearish sentiment in the single-use and packaging sector persisted while growth in the construction segment was less than anticipated in large markets such as Germany and Italy. Growth in the electronic applications and construction sectors in other regions, such as eastern Europe and France, continued.
Polystyrene supply was normal in Q2 with the return of a styrene monomer plant in Brazil. Production declined in Argentina, where slow demand has forced reduction of operating rates. Production has been normal in Colombia and Mexico, but also at reduced operating rates to accommodate demand.
Polystyrene demand was soft in Q2, as buyers sought to hold purchases while waiting for prices to hit bottom. Demand fell in Argentina with the steep currency devaluation experienced in recent months. This situation continues with higher inflation and reduced credit availability. Demand has declined in Mexico despite favourable seasonality.
Asian supply to the Middle East and India in most of Q2 was tight, with Asian suppliers focusing more on Asian markets citing more lucrative margins.
However, the tightness was offset by regional suppliers in the Middle East and India.
Moreover, the tight supply was also negated as the market slowed down during the Ramadan season in June.
Overall, supply in the Middle East and India was deemed to be very stable.
Demand in the first part of Q1 was considered steady, even a little bit increased in anticipation of the Ramadan season in the latter part of Q2.
Even with strong feedstock styrene monomer (SM) values, consumers still bought on a regular basis.
In the later part of Q2, when Ramadan started in the Middle East, demand slowed down as most of the downstream manufacturers closed or reduced production during the Eid holiday.
Supply of US polystyrene (PS) was readily available during the second quarter, with all plants running throughout the quarter and no planned or unplanned outages. Upstream styrene supply was plentiful following a pair of planned turnarounds at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter.
US PS demand increased in the first quarter, largely because of low demand seen in the previous quarter.
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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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