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Updated to Q2 2020
Hanbang Petrochemical had an unplanned shutdown at its 600,000 tonne/year No 1 PTA unit and 2.2m tonne/year No 2 unit in May, resulting in a slight drawdown in inventories during the quarter. There were several PTA unit shutdowns within the region amid various countries imposing movement restrictions and lockdowns in order to control the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic. However, plant start-ups and higher inventory levels were seen at other producers.
The lockdown and movement restrictions at various countries had led to lower downstream polyester operating rates during the period. A bearish global macroeconomic environment had resulted in lower export orders, especially for the textile and clothing industries. Chinese polyester operating rates saw a 4.17% decline during the period, compared to the previous year.
Production in Europe was reduced in what was a long market, due in part to increased import activity. Between January and May, there were around 545,000 tonnes of PTA exported out of South Korea to Europe, with nearly 210,000 tonnes destined for Turkey. This is up from around 485,000 tonnes during the same period in 2019.
Domestic requirements struggled, partly due to competitive imports. Many buyers turned away from contractual commitments in 2020, preferring instead to watch out for spot opportunities, many of which have come in the form of imports.
PTA supply during Q2 2020 was adequate on the back of the steady supply of feedstock PX, despite stronger-than-expected demand from the downstream PET segment. Uncertainties created by the spread of the pandemic and plummeting crude prices resulted in different contract settlement dynamics, with April unsettled even after the May settlement.
Q2 demand was strong due to robust downstream demand, mainly from PET, spurred by panic buying activity at the end-consumer level due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Updated to Q3 2020
Q3 supply is likely to be stable to ample as demand from the downstream PET sector declines. Supply could become somewhat tight if availability of recycled PET continues to be tight and more virgin resin is needed to supply convertors.
Q3 demand is likely to be softer, as demand from the downstream PET sector starts to decline due to weakening economic conditions stemming from the pandemic and as the loss of jobs impact consumer behaviour. However, the drop in demand could be partially offset by demand from convertors not obtaining committed recycled PET levels for blends and if virgin resin replaces that supply.
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