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 Q4 2020
Spot supply of PO was mixed, with supply tightening due to scheduled shutdown maintenance projects at some Asia-based plants. The decrease in PO cargo availability was countered by the restart at a China-based major plant after a long hiatus from late 2018, and the starting of commercial output from a new plant in Thailand from October.
Demand was largely mixed, with uptake among some buyers slowing ahead of the year-end, whereas others were purchasing actively ahead of the festive holiday amid healthy demand from the polyols sector. Trade, however, was impacted by vessel shortage in the region, which led China-based PO buyers to focus on purchasing locally on a Chinese yuan basis.
The market tightened throughout Q4, with the BASF unit out for almost the whole quarter and a couple of other reported production hiccups. Towards the end of Q4 a tight propylene market was having a slight impact. The demand pull downstream was very strong, especially into polyols. There were also reports of exports to other regions, and PO was tight on a global basis.
Demand was healthy throughout Q4 as a result of the exceptionally strong demand into the polyols market. This meant that there was less PO available for other derivatives such as propylene glycol ethers and MPG. Demand was impacted into construction by restrictions resulting from the coronavirus, although it improved on previous months. Offtake into the food sector was good.
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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.