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 2020
Supply for GPPS fell slightly after Chi Mei stopped production at one or two lines in Tainan permanently. Some turnarounds in Taiwan capped production levels further. Domestic South Korea demand from the electronics sector stayed healthy and limited exports. Sufficient supply from southeast Asia neutralised the limitations in northeast Asia slightly.
Chinese import demand firmed as downstream performance in the household appliance sectors improved, both on the re-export front and domestic front. Some packaging and construction demand emerged towards the end of the quarter, further supporting the uptrend.
European PS supply was stable and balanced across Q2, with no production or logistics issues. Players in construction maintained high stock levels throughout. Early in Q2, some slightly tighter supply for packaging material was heard, due to stronger demand. Imports were available in small quantities but were less competitive throughout Q2
PS demand varied depending on application across Q2. There was stronger demand for food and medical care packaging due to increased needs for the material during the pandemic. There was also stronger demand for GPPS protective screens in reopened shops, which started to soften in late Q2. Construction and appliance demand were mostly lower in Q2 due to impact from the coronavirus and country lockdowns.
PS supply tightened in Q2 amid nationwide lockdowns in the region and firmer demand in China, prompting cargoes to be shifted there. Some producers conducted annual maintenance shutdowns in May while others lowered operating rates on rising feedstock SM prices as well as disrupted supply chains. The Indian market saw tighter supply as a result of expected anti-dumping duties and labour shortages affecting downstream factories.
PS demand fell in Q2 on slow economic activity, amid lockdown measures in the region and the traditional lull season during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Demand in India weakened as well, particularly for GPPS, as buyers remained cautious in view of impending anti-dumping duties. Stricter restriction measures weighed on Bangladeshi demand, with prices collapsing throughout Q2.
Q2 supply was significantly lower due to reduced utilisation rates and idled production in the region to adjust for pandemic-led demand erosion. Local producers in Brazil, Innova and Unigel reduced rates for some facilities while idling other plants. PS supply remained available despite the reduced production. Currency volatility and depreciation provided another layer of uncertainty as economic projections for regional countries turned negative.
Q2 demand was dramatically lower as industrial activity figures plummeted in most regional countries. Demand was strong for food packaging, as restaurant takeaway meals increased. Hygiene and medical applications also increased. The temporary suspension of anti-single use plastics legislation provided some relief, along with the increased need for disposables amid coronavirus-mitigation efforts.
US PS supply was sufficient throughout the second quarter. Poor demand in South America caused some suppliers in that region to move material into the US market while product from Asia remained readily available. Domestic supply also remained sufficient for the reduced demand volume created by the economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent containment measures.
PS demand decreased during the second quarter, tracking the bearish macroeconomic situation stemming from the coronavirus outbreak and movement restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Appliance and electronics demand was slow while demand for food packaging and food service items was stronger. A number of jurisdictions eased restrictions on single-use plastics amid increased hygiene concerns during the coronavirus outbreak.
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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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