ICIS publishes our reliable and trustworthy propylene oxide report in Asia, Europe and the US on a weekly basis. Independent and unbiased pricing assessments are quoted for spot and contract, depending on the region. Our locally-based reporters gather market intelligence to compile commentary to include insight into demand and supply movements, upstream and downstream trends, trade and production data and any other key influencing factors that may impact prices in the market at the time.
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Updated to Q1 2021
Supply first tightened amid maintenance at some northeast Asia and Middle East PO facilities, some of which ran into unexpected production woes towards the end of Q1. The polar storms in the US also curtailed US-origin supply. However, two China PO units also started up during the same period, leading to increased availability within China. This resulted in mixed supply conditions.
Cargo uptake for PO first slowed ahead of the Lunar New Year, before picking up after the end of the festivities amid restocking activity. Strong demand in the downstream polyether polyols and MPG sectors buoyed buying appetite for PO, especially since downstream supply was short. In China, buying activity slowed in late March ahead of PO start-ups.
PO spot supply tightened throughout Q1 as the result of constrained upstream propylene availability. As a result, the market watched propylene levels closely. A force majeure from major producer LyondellBasell reduced the volume of material available on the market. There were few imports as producers in the US were hit by severe weather in February creating a tight supply situation globally.
The buying appetite for PO in Q1 was unprecedented with strong pull into polyols, propylene glycols and glycol ethers. Prices for all downstream derivatives soared to record breaking prices creating strong competition for the feedstock. Sellers described the market as hectic as they received a very high number of enquiries throughout the quarter.
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Over 80% of propylene oxide (PO) goes into two main uses: polyether polyols (60%) and propylene glycol (21%).
Propylene oxide (PO) is a very volatile, colourless, flammable liquid with a characteristic ether-like odour. PO reacts violently with chlorine, ammonia, strong oxidants and acids causing fire and explosion hazards.
Propylene oxide is a highly reactive chemical used as an intermediate for the production of numerous commercial materials. The largest derivative of PO is polyether polyols, one of the main components used in the manufacture of polyurethanes. Propylene glycol (PG) is the second largest PO derivative.
Propylene oxide is made traditionally by chlorohydrin or epoxidation routes. The propylene oxide/styrene monomer (PO/SM) epoxidation process had been gaining in popularity due to its superior economics. However, new PO technologies that do not made coproducts have now been commercialised.
General downstream PO sectors include bedding and furniture; construction and automotive.