Propylene

Benchmarked pricing assessments and expert analysis

Discover the factors influencing propylene markets

A key feedstock for the petrochemicals industry, propylene is most commonly produced as a co-product of ethylene. The dominant downstream sector is polypropylene (PP), but propylene is also used to produce acrylonitrile (ACN), propylene oxide (PO), polyols, cumene, acrylic acid (AA), and alcohols.

Planned maintenance turnarounds in the spring and autumn are key to managing expectations but unplanned outages – big or small – can have a major impact on the market and pricing. The June-November hurricane season in the US Gulf often leads to disruption in production and trade flows.

ICIS provides reliable and trustworthy weekly price assessments for propylene in Asia, China, Europe, and the USA. Daily market intelligence is also available for coverage of the Asian markets. Our locally-based expert reporters leverage market input from buyers, sellers and distributors, leading to unparalleled coverage of the propylene value chain across the globe.

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Propylene news

ExxonMobil to close Gravenchon, France cracker and related derivative units in 2024

LONDON (ICIS)—ExxonMobil Chemical France has announced plans to close its chemical production at Gravenchon, in Normandy in France in 2024, subject to the relevant government approvals. According to a press release, the steamcracker and related derivatives units and logistics facilities will be shut down. The company said the site has lost more than €500 million since 2018 and despite efforts to improve the site’s economics, it remains uncompetitive. According to the ICIS Supply & Demand database, the cracker has the capacity to produce 425,000 tonnes/year of ethylene and 290,000 tonnes/year of propylene and was started up in 1967. A butadiene (BD) unit is also at the site and associated derivatives include polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP). ExxonMobil's nearby Port Jerome refinery will continue to operate supplying fuels, lubricants, basestocks and asphalt. The closure will impact 677 jobs through 2025. ExxonMobil said this planned closure is entirely separate from the Esso S.A.F. announcement regarding its proposed sale of the Esso Fos-sur-Mer refinery and South France logistics assets. Charles Amyot, president of ExxonMobil companies in France said: “It has been a very difficult decision for us to take, but we cannot continue to operate at such a loss.” This week Saudi Arabia's Sabic also revealed plans to permanently close its Olefins 3 cracker – one of two at their Geleen, Netherlands site.

11-Apr-2024

PODCAST: China PDH run rates to rebound in Q2 from record low

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The average run rate of China's propane dehydrogenation (PDH) units declined on 3 April to 47.6%, down from 58.7% from a week before, marking the biggest week-on-week decrease ever and hitting the lowest point on record, according to ICIS data. Plant utilization should pick up from late April as facilities restart from maintenance, with expectations that the propylene-propane price spread will widen into Q3. In this podcast, ICIS analyst Wang Yan shares insights on the challenges being faced by PDH operators.

11-Apr-2024

INVISTA to explore alternatives for nylon fibers business

HOUSTON (ICIS)–INVISTA plans to explore strategic alternatives for its nylon fibers business and has engaged Barclays as exclusive financial advisor during the exploration process, the US-based manufacturer of chemical intermediates, polymers and fibers said in a statement late on Tuesday. The nylon fibers business includes: INVISTA’s fiber-focused portfolio: airbag and industrial fibers The CORDURA businesses Five supporting global manufacturing locations: Seaford, Delaware and Martinsville, Virginia, both in the US; Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Gloucester, UK; and Qingpu, China INVISTA believes that there are other companies with a different focus and capabilities that could create greater value with those assets, said CEO Francis Murphy. If, however, through the process INVISTA finds that other companies do not value the nylon business more highly, it will continue to operate it, Murphy said. If INVISTA proceeds with a transaction, it would also result in a simplification and strengthened focus on its long-term competitive positions in the upstream nylon and propylene value chain businesses, it said. The nylon fiber assets are a major part of the current INVISTA footprint, “and it would be premature to speculate on the final structure of a potential deal”, it said, adding that details of the business and exploration process are confidential. Regardless of a potential transaction to divest its nylon fibers business, INVISTA will continue to supply its global nylon and propylene value chain customers with intermediates, polymers and specialty chemicals, the company said. Photo source: Attapon Thana/Shutterstock

10-Apr-2024

‘Extremely active’ 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could mirror 2020, threaten US Gulf chem production

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be extremely active, and has similar characteristics to the 2020 season, meaning it could threaten offshore oil and natural gas production in the US Gulf and chemical producers along the Gulf Coast. Source: Colorado State University (CSU)  A report late last week from researchers at CSU follows a report released on 27 March by US meteorology firm AccuWeather that also predicted an active hurricane season. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will issue its first seasonal hurricane report in late May. So far, the CSU team said it is seeing similar characteristics to hurricane seasons in 1998, 2010 and 2020. The 2020 season saw 30 named storms, of which 13 became hurricanes and six of those were major storms. Storms in 2020 that impacted chemical operations included: Tropical Storm Marco hit Louisiana on 24 August. Days later, Hurricane Laura made landfall as a powerful category 4 storm in Louisiana near the border of Texas. Then, Hurricane Sally made landfall on 16 September in Alabama as a category 2 storm, followed by Tropical Storm Beta which made landfall less than a week later in Texas. Hurricane Delta followed a similar path as Hurricane Laura, making landfall on 9 October as a category 2 storm in Louisiana. Weeks later, Hurricane Zeta hit Cocodrie, Louisiana, as a category 2 storm. Hurricane Laura knocked 16% of total US ethylene capacity and 11% of total US propylene capacity offline, according to the ICIS Supply and Demand Database. About 18% of polyethylene (PE) production was offline, and 26% of polypropylene (PP) production was offline. Styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), a synthetic rubber used to make tires, had 46% of its US capacity offline. The CSU team said record warm tropical and eastern subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are the primary factor for the active season prediction. “When waters in the eastern and central tropical and subtropical Atlantic are much warmer than normal in the spring, it tends to force a weaker subtropical high and associated weaker winds blowing across the tropical Atlantic,” researchers said. “These conditions will likely lead to a continuation of well above-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic for the peak of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season.” Warm ocean waters serve as the fuel source for hurricanes, the CSU team said. “In addition, a warm Atlantic leads to lower atmospheric pressure and a more unstable atmosphere,” they said. “Both conditions favor hurricanes.” The current El Nino is likely to transition to a La Nina by the peak of the season – from August to October. Hurricane season begins on 1 June and runs through the end of November. Hurricanes and tropical storms can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, because oil and gas production are concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, many of the nation's refineries and petrochemical plants are along the US Gulf Coast in the states of Texas and Louisiana. Even the threat of a major storm can disrupt oil and natural gas production, because companies must evacuate US Gulf platforms as a precaution. Thumbnail image shows a weather satellite orbiting over a hurricane. Photo by John Pulsipher/image from Shutterstock

08-Apr-2024

Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 5 April. NEWS Mexico’s automotive output falls nearly 13% in March Mexico’s automotive sector output fell by 12.75% in March, month on month, to just over 300,000 units, the country’s statistical office Inegi said on Wednesday. Sanitation framework, nascent LatAm lithium industry keeping Brazil’s chloralkali afloat – Abiclor Brazil’s chlorine and caustic soda sectors have kept afloat in better health than the wider chemicals industry as sanitation plans and new lithium exploitations across Latin America keep demand high, according to the director general at the country’s trade group Abiclor. Brazil’s chemicals, industrial output falls in February Brazil’s chemicals output fell in February by 3.5%, month on month, one of the largest falls among the subsectors measured, the country’s statistical office IBGE said on Wednesday. Petrobras ‘proactively’ engaging with Federal auditor about tolling contract with Unigel Petrobras continues to “clarify in a timely manner” all the information requested by the Federal auditor regarding its tolling contract with Unigel, a spokesperson for the Brazilian energy major said to ICIS on Tuesday. Brazil’s Unigel postpones Q4 results amid debt restructuring Unigel has postponed the publication of its Q4 and 2023 financial results as its debt restructuring is ongoing, the Brazilian chemicals and fertilizers producer said on Tuesday. MOVES: Brazil’s Unipar appoints Alexandre Jerussalmy as CFO Unipar has appointed Alexandre Jerussalmy as CFO and investor relations officer, effective immediately, the Brazilian chemicals producer said on Tuesday. Colombia’s manufacturing slows down in March on lower sales Colombia’s manufacturing output growth slowed down in March on the back of lower sales, although it marked its third month in expansion territory, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. Brazil's manufacturing March output healthy on new orders, fueling job creation Brazil’s manufacturing continued expanding at pace in March on the back of a healthy new order book, prompting firms to increase workforces, S&P Global said on Monday. Mexico’s manufacturing steady in March but subdued US demand causes concern Mexico’s manufacturing output stayed stable in March but firms are getting increasingly worried about lower demand from the US, the key market for the country’s export-intensive manufacturers, analysts at S&P Global said on Monday. PRICING Lat Am PP domestic prices down in Argentina, Mexico on lower US PGP spot prices, weak demand Domestic polypropylene (PP) prices dropped in Argentina and Mexico on the back of lower US spot propylene prices and weak demand. In other Latin American countries, prices remained steady. LatAm PE international prices steady to lower on lower US export offers International polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed as steady to lower on the back of lower US export offers. Ethanol prices in Brazil experiencing surges during April The prices of hydrous ethanol surged during the initial week of April, propelled by consistent strong sales in Brazil. Unigel to raise PS April prices in Brazil Unigel is seeking an 11% price increase on all grades of polystyrene (PS) sold in Brazil starting on 1 April, according to a customer letter. Innova seeks April PS price increase in Brazil Innova is seeking a real (R) 1,000/tonne ($200/tonne) price increase, excluding local taxes, on all grades of polystyrene (PS) sold in Brazil starting on 1 April, according to a customer letter.

08-Apr-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 15 March. Europe ethylene and propylene sentiment cautiously optimistic for remainder of H1 Given the better-than-expected demand conditions, with improved sales volumes and higher prices lifting many out of the mire that was 2023, the question on everyone’s lips is how long can we expect this state of affairs to last. Potential for oil market deficit in 2024 as demand expectations grow – IEA Higher oil demand expectations and fresh production cuts from the OPEC+ alliance could push the 2024 crude market balance from a surplus to a slight deficit if the voluntary reductions remain in place for the rest of the year, according to the International Energy Agency. Surging PET bottle bale prices threaten to ‘destroy’ Europe’s R-PET market Feedstock bale prices hit €930/tonne ex-works in Poland on Monday, prompting recycled PET participants to suggest such price levels threaten to destroy the R-PET market as they fear a repeat of 2022’s disastrous price volatility. Europe acetic acid, VAM contract talks for March focus on supply disruption March negotiations are underway for European acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) contract pricing with security of supply a key influence on negotiations amid LyondellBasell’s force majeure in the US and other disruptions to global trade flows. Caution caps optimism as peak season arrives for Europe styrene market Spot activity in the Europe styrene market was moderate in the week ended 8 March, as players attended a key industry event, while cautious and conservative sentiment persisted alongside crosswinds from ongoing demand weakness and thin liquidity, high feedstock costs and reduced availability. Participants pointed to only slight improvements in demand and market optimism from levels seen in 2023. Europe cracker margins up on firmer ethylene, co-products pricing Cracker margins in Europe rose in the week on the back of firmer ethylene and co-product pricing, ICIS Margin Analysis showed on Monday.

18-Mar-2024

Lotte Chemical mulls 'strategic measures' for Malaysian-listed LC Titan

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–South Korean producer Lotte Chemical said on Thursday that it is exploring options for its Malaysian subsidiary, in response to local media reports that the unit is up for sale. "We are considering various strategic measures related to LC Titan [Lotte Chemical Titan] which is our subsidiary, but nothing has been decided so far," Lotte Chemical chief financial officer Seong Nak-sun said in a stock exchange filing. "We will re-announce the details within a month or when they are decided in the future," Seong added. Lotte Chemical and LC Titan could not be immediately reached for further comments on the potential sale. At 05:30 GMT, shares of the two listed companies were trading lower, with Lotte Chemical down 1.63% in Seoul, and LC Titan down 1.72% in Kuala Lumpur. According to media reports on Thursday, Lotte Chemical has already initiated the process of selling LC Titan, citing unnamed sources. "We're actively reviewing ways to optimize our portfolio, which includes considering the potential sale of LC Titan. However, a definitive decision has not yet been reached," an unnamed Lotte Chemical official was quoted by The Korea Economic Daily (KED) as saying. Lotte Chemical is approaching both domestic and international companies, along with private equity firms through investment banks, to be potential buyers for its Malaysian arm, KED reported. The Korean producer is planning to sell all outstanding shares of LC Titan traded on the Malaysian stock market, which is equivalent to 74.7% of the company, valuing the firm at around $550m based on current market capitalization, it added. LC Titan has incurred a second year of net loss, which widened to Malaysian ringgit (M$) 780.3m in 2023 as sales declined by 24% to M$7.65bn. Malaysia's LC Titan full-year financial results in thousand ringgit (M$) FY2023 FY2022 % change Sales           7,646,170         10,019,083 -23.7 Loss from operations           (868,001)         (1,041,451) -16.7 Net profit            (780,286)            (731,061) 6.7 Meanwhile, parent firm Lotte Chemical swung into a net loss last year. S Korea's Lotte Chemical full-year financial results in billion S Korean won (W) 2023 2022 % Change Sales 19,949 22,276 -10.4 EBITDA 839 185 353.5 Operating profit -333 -763 Net income -301 28 In the notes accompanying its financial results released on 7 February, Lotte Chemical had stated that that it “will pursue advancement and improvements to the business portfolio in order to actively respond to changes in the business environment of the petrochemical industry and improve profitability through efficient management of existing petrochemical businesses”. “The weak market conditions of the petrochemical industry are ongoing due to reduced demand and dropping product prices resulting from global uncertainties, as well as increased supply burdens caused by large-scale ethylene plant expansions in China,” it said. The acquisition of Malaysian company Titan Chemicals in 2010 was the Korean firm’s first foray into southeast Asia. The acquired company was rebranded Lotte Chemical Titan, and in 2017, was listed on the Malaysian bourse. LC Titan operates 12 plants at two sites in Johor, Malaysia; and holds a 40% stake in LOTTE Chemical USA based in Houston, Texas. In Indonesia, the company operates polyethylene plants, and in Q1 2022,  started construction of LOTTE Chemical Indonesia New Ethylene (LINE) Project, which will increase production capacity in Cilegon by 65% to 5.88m tonnes/year. The project is expected to produce 1m tonnes/year of ethylene; 520,000 tonnes/year of propylene; 250,000 tonnes/year of polypropylene (PP); and 140,000 tonnes/year of butadiene (BD). It is scheduled to be completed in 2025. Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman ($1 = M$4.71; $1 = W1,330) Thumbnail image: A Lotte Chemical Titan plant in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia (Source: Lotte Chemical Titan)

07-Mar-2024

Korea’s S-Oil targets $2bn capex for Ulsan oil-to-chems project in '24

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–South Korean refiner S-Oil has earmarked won (W) 2.72tr ($2bn) this year for its thermal crude-to-chemical (TC2C) project called Shaheen, representing 87% of the total capital expenditure (capex) set for 2024. The full-year capex at W3.14tr was up 54% from 2023, the company said in its Q4 results presentation released in early February. Construction of Shaheen at the Onsan Industrial Complex of Ulsan City started in March 2023 and will be in full swing this year, with mechanical completion targeted by the first half of 2026. The funds that will go to the project – whose name was derived from the Arabic word for falcon – were up 86% from 2023 levels. As of end-December 2023, site preparation was 48% complete, with engineering, procurement and construction at 18.7%, according to S-Oil. “Site preparation and EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] work is under full-fledged execution with the actual progress going smoothly according to the plan,” the company said. The project will leverage on the T2C2 technology of its parent company Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest crude exporter. Aramco owns more than 63% of S-Oil. The project is expected to yield 70% more chemicals, with a capex/operating expenditure savings pegged at 30-40% versus conventional process. Meanwhile, for upgrade and maintenance of plants in 2024, total expenses will fall by about 32% to W298bn, with just two plants due for turnaround in the year – its No 1 crude distillation unit (CDU) and its No 1 lube HDT (hydrotreatment) unit, the company said in the presentation, noting that the plan is preliminary. ICIS had reported that S-Oil will conduct maintenance at its Group I and Group II base oils units in Onsan, Ulsan for more than a month from mid-September this year. On 23 February 2024, a fire broke out at the company’s Onsan production site in Ulsan, shutting one of the three crude distillation units (CDUs) of its 669,000 bbl/day refinery, with some reduction in propylene output of the residue fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC) at the site, industry sources said. Other downstream operations at the site were not affected, but this could not be immediately confirmed with the company. Its Onsan complex can produce 910,000 tonnes/year of propylene; 187,000 tonnes/year of ethylene; 600,000 tonnes/year of benzene; and 1m tonnes/year of paraxylene (PX), according to the ICIS Supply & Demand Database. The company was planning to restart the No 3 CDU by 27 February, news agency Reuters reported, quoting unnamed sources. 2023 NET PROFIT SLUMPSS-Oil posted a 54.9% slump in net profit, with sales sliding by about 16% to as operating rates across its plants declined. in billion won (W) FY2023* FY2022 Yr-on-yr % change Revenue 35,726.7 42,446.0 -15.8 Operating income 1,354.6 3,405.2 -60.2 Net income 948.8 2,104.4 -54.9 *Revised figures from S-Oil on 26 February 2024 in billion won (W) FY2023 FY2022 Yr-on-yr % change Refining operating profit 399.1 2,344.3 -83.0 Petrochemical operating profit 203.7 -49.8 -509.0 Lube operating profit 815.7 1,110.7 -26.6 Source: S-Oil presentation, 2 February 2024 Average operating rates across the company’s plants declined and were in the  range of 75.1% to 90.4% in 2023 due to weakening global demand, with paraxylene (PX) plants registering the lowest run rate. Source: S-Oil, February 2024 2024 OUTLOOK “Regional refining markets are forecast to maintain an above average level by steady demand growth coupled with low inventory levels,” S-Oil said. Refining margins in the first quarter will likely be supported by “heating demand in winter and spring maintenance season", it said. “With uncertainties on start-up timing and pace of major new refineries, market impact is estimated to be restricted in 2H [second half] or beyond,” the company said. Paraxylene (PX) and benzene markets “are projected to be supported by firm demand growth” on the back of new downstream expansions as well as demand for gasoline blending, “amid drastically reduced capacity addition”. Polypropylene (PP) and propylene oxide (PO) markets “are likely to gradually improve in tandem with pace of China’s economic recovery, while pressures from capacity addition continues”, while for lube base oils (LBO), the product spread is projected to be solid “on limited capacity additions and sustained demand growth”, according to S-Oil. Thumbnail image: S-Oil's Residue Upgrading Complex (RUC) and the Olefin Downstream Complex (ODC) in Ulsan, South Korea (Source: S-Oil) Focus article by Pearl Bantillo ($1 = W1,334)

29-Feb-2024

AdvanSix petitions US to impose Superfund taxes on imports of nylon 6, capro

HOUSTON (ICIS)–AdvanSix has requested that the US impose Superfund taxes on imports of nylon 6 and caprolactam (capro). On Tuesday, AdvanSix did not immediately respond to a request for comment. AdvanSix proposed a tax rate of $14.77/ton. The next step is for the government to gather comments and consider requests for hearings about AdvanSix's request. The deadline to file comments or request hearings is 22 April. HOW THE SUPERFUND TAX WORKSThe US introduced the Superfund taxes in mid-2022 on taxable chemicals and imports of taxable substances. The proceeds raised by the taxes will help replenish the government's Superfund program, which pays for clean-up at waste sites. The Superfund tax regime divides materials into two groups. The first group is levied on the sale or use of 42 chemicals by producers or importers. Many of these chemicals are fundamental building blocks such as ethylene, propylene, butadiene (BD), benzene, toluene, xylene and methane. The second group is restricted to imports and covers substances that are sold or used in the US. This second batch of taxes applies to substances that contain at least 20% of the 42 taxable chemicals. In addition, the taxable rate would depend on the proportion of the 42 taxable chemicals contained in the substance. The request by AdvanSix falls under this second group. As part of its request AdvanSix filed two petitions asking the US to add nylon 6 and capro to its list of taxable substances. Thumbnail shows nylon Image by Shutterstock.

27-Feb-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 23 February. Europe PE/PP contract prices reach three figure hikes for February Contract prices for European polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) have settled upwards from initial moves earlier in February, in the pivotal third week of the month. Chemical firms back call for stronger business environment in EU The chief executives of BASF, INEOS, Covestro, Clariant and Dow Europe among others on Tuesday backed a new declaration calling for stronger European Commission prioritisation of business, calling for an industrial deal to be placed at the core of the new Parliament. Europe propylene limitations raise concerns down value chain The European propylene (C3) supply and demand balance is in a tighter than expected position due to a combination of healthy demand and planned and unplanned production constraints. BASF navigates low-growth environment as China Verbund spending continues As BASF prepares to provide more detail on its 2023 financial performance, the Germany-based chemicals major is to navigate the still-chilly waters of 2024 as spending on its flagship China Verbund site in Zhanjiang continues and project pipelines face ever-tougher scrutiny. INSIGHT: EU chemicals plead for help while production sinks to 1999 levels As chemical production in Europe plunges to levels last seen during the 2008/9 financial crisis and back in 1999, industry leaders are urging the EU to improve the regulatory framework and do more to protect them from unfair competition. But with the fundamentals of supply and demand so out of balance globally, there are limits to how much politicians can achieve in Europe.

26-Feb-2024

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