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.
If you’re involved in this market, ICIS can provide you with this essential tool to make informed and confident business choices.
Updated to Q2 2019
Cargo availability for propylene oxide in the Asian region in the second quarter was lower on the back of unforeseen plant outages at some Asia-based propylene oxide (PO) units. Apart from plant woes, some regional PO makers were also running their units at lowered rates in order to manage dwindled demand due to slow downstream polyether polyols uptake. There were also shutdown maintenance projects among Asia-based PO plants in the second quarter.
PO spot cargo uptake was sluggish throughout the second quarter on the back of lacklustre demand from the downstream polyols sector, amid ongoing anti-dumping investigations by the US on China-origin foam mattresses. Most foam makers maintained a cautious approach towards procurement, preferring to keep inventories lean. The devaluation of the Chinese yuan against the US dollar also weighed on import sentiment, as it was less cost-effective for Chinese buyers to import cargoes on a US dollar basis.
A busy cracker and propylene oxide (PO) maintenance schedule did not adversely impact markets in the second quarter. Turnarounds were well planned for and there were no significant restart issues. One seller did have lower production rates during parts of Q2 2019 for undisclosed reasons. Supply into the polyols sector was slower than expected and so some volumes were switched to the propylene glycol market instead.
PO demand was slow in Q2 2019 overall. The high season for derivative propylene glycol was over and downstream polyols were impacted by slow sales into the automotive sector. Many end-use sectors experienced a cautious economic climate linked to Brexit and the US-China trade war. Volumes were steady into food and detergent sectors, which are less prone to demand fluctuations in the wider economy, but these are smaller users of PO.
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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.
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