Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM)

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Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) is a key intermediate used for the manufacture of polymers and resins to make adhesives, coatings, paints, films, textiles and other end-products. Demand for VAM comes from multiple sectors – notably packaging, automotive and construction – so prices can be volatile. For key decision-makers, it’s vital to be aware of changes as they happen in order to ensure price negotiations are fair.

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DuPont flags $60 million in dis-synergies from break-up, assures on PFAS liabilities

HOUSTON (ICIS)–DuPont expects about $60 million in dis-synergies from its break-up into three independent publicly traded companies, CEO Ed Breen and CFO Lori Koch told analysts in a conference call on Thursday. The US specialty chemicals and materials company announced late on Wednesday that it plans to separate its electronics and water businesses into two publicly traded companies while the existing DuPont, dubbed “New DuPont”, will continue as a diversified industrial company. The dis-synergies were largely related to insurance, audit fees, leadership and boards, that is, “public company stand-up costs”, Koch said. The dis-synergies were “not a huge number” and would be across all three companies, she said. As for separation costs, those are estimated at $700 million, with the biggest cost items being IT separation and tax, legal and audit work, she said. DIVESTMENT NOT RULED OUT While DuPont is pursuing spin-offs and is not running a parallel M&A processes for electronics and water, it does not entirely rule out divesting them. “If somebody wants to call and propose something, we are going to listen to it,” Breen said in response to analysts' questions. He also said that the water business, which is relatively smaller, may be spun off before electronics. The timing for the separations is good as markets are coming out of destocking cycles, Breen noted. Especially in semiconductors, “we are going into a real upcycle”, he added. DuPont has been working on the separation for about six months and expects to complete it within the coming 18-24 months, he said. The relatively long completion timeline is mainly due to tax matters as DuPont intends to execute tax-free separations, he said. In some of the countries where DuPont operating, a separated business must be run for a full 12 months before it gets tax-free status, Breen said. New DuPont, with annual sales of $6.6 billion, and the electronic spin-off (sales: $4.0 billion), are expected to have investment-grade balance sheets whereas the smaller water business (sales: $1.5 billion), may not, Koch said. PFAS As for DuPont’s liabilities for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), those will be allocated between the three companies pro rata, based on their earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the last year before the spin-off, Breen said. The amount of PFAS liabilities may not be that large as DuPont expects to “make great progress” on settling claims by the time the spin-offs will be completed in 18-24 months, he said. BREEN’S NEW ROLE Breen will step down as CEO on 1 June, to be succeeded by Koch. However, he will continue as full-time executive chairman of DuPont’s board of directors, focusing on the separations, including the appointment of the spin-off companies’ boards and the hiring of their management teams. Breen would not rule out that he may join the boards of the electronics and water spin-offs but added that a decision has yet to be made. PROFILES OF THE THREE COMPANIES' MARKETS New DuPont, focused on healthcare, advanced mobility, and safety & protection: Electronics, focused on semi-conductors and interconnect solutions: Raw materials used by the electronic business include, among others, monomers, pigments and dyes, styrenic block copolymers, copper foil, filler alumina, nickel, silver, palladium, photoactive compounds, polyester and other polymer films, polyethylene (PE) resins, polyurethane (PU) resins, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds and silicones, according to DuPont's website. Water, focused on reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and ultra filtration: Raw materials used by the water business include, among others, methyl methacrylate (MMA), styrene, polysulfone, high density polyethylene (HDPE), polyethylene (PE), aniline, calcium chloride, caustic and sulfuric acid, according to DuPont's website. DuPont's shares traded at $78.44/share, down 0.13%, at 11:00 local time on the New York Stock Exchange. With additional reporting by Al Greenwood Thumbnail photo source: DuPont

23-May-2024

Freight rates on China exports soar amid Red Sea crisis

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Freight rates for China's exports, including petrochemicals, have been spiking in recent weeks and are expected to remain firm in the next three to six months on the back of improving overseas demand and amid continued logistics disruptions in the Middle East. Geopolitical tensions translate to higher shipping cost, longer delivery time Container shortages intensifying in China Freight rates to remain firm on strong western demand Most ocean carriers have halted transits in the Red Sea, which is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, fearing missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. They have opted to take the longer route via the Cape of Good Hope, resulting in much longer time and costs for moving cargoes to their destinations. The Red Sea crisis is showing no signs of de-escalation, with the latest casualty being the Panama-flagged oil tanker M/T Wind bound for China, which was struck by a Houthi-launched ballistic missile on 18 May. Logistics and supply chain disruptions are expected to continue. Dutch shipping giant Maersk had said on 6 May that its vessels have been forced to lengthen their journey further because of the expanded risk zone and attacks reaching further offshore in the Rea Sea. “The knock-on effects of the situation have included bottlenecks and vessel bunching, as well as delays and equipment and capacity shortages,” the company had said, estimating an industrywide capacity loss of 15-20% on the Far East-to-North Europe and Mediterranean market during the second quarter. CONTAINERS/VESSEL SPACE IN SEVERE SHORTAGE As carriers now need longer time to come back from destinations, the resulting severe shortage of containers and vessel space was triggering sharp spikes in freight rates. From Shanghai to the US west coast and the US east coast, freight rates on 17 May jumped to $5,025/forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU), and $6,026/FEU, respectively, up by 14.4% and 8.3% week on week, according to the Shanghai Shipping Exchange. To South America from China’s financial capital, the shipping cost increased at a sharper rate of 22.4%, while to Europe, freight rates rose by 6.3%, the data showed. A shipping broker said that China-to-Europe freights have been soaring by $500-$800/FEU each week since late April, while a polypropylene (PP) trader noted that the rates to West Africa more than tripled to $8,000/FEU, more than a fourfold increase from $1,500-$2,000/FEU rates in early April. “We now need to wait 10-15 days for booking containers. We face severe stockpiling and warehouses are flooded with cargoes waiting for shipment,” said a marketing manager of a Shenzhen-based logistics company. A plastic bag factory in east China is currently stuck with high inventories and risk suspending production, a source from the company said For vinyl acetate producers, a shortage of shipping tanks prevents them from exporting more cargoes, providing them with the less-efficient means of bulk shipments with other products as the only alternative. ROBUST WESTERN DEMAND SUPPORTS FIRM RATES The recent spike in freight rates came as a surprise to players in the petrochemical industry as the May-June period is normally a lull season for Chinese exports. Besides the Red Sea crisis, strong demand coming from the west underlies the recent surge in freight rates. “July-September is the peak season for China-to-West shipping. With [the] destocking last year, Europe and US markets demand are expected to rise substantially before the Christmas [season in December],” said Wang Guowen, director of Shenzhen Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research. “Plus, Europe and UK central banks are expected to cut interest rates, which will further stimulate consumptions there,” he added, noting that demand from both Europe and the US will remain strong rest of the year. This will continue to buoy up shipping rates, which are projected to hover at high rates over the next three to six months, industry sources said. On 16 May, Maersk announced a hike in peak season surcharge (PSS) for major east-to-west shipping lanes, including the China-to-Dar es Salaam, Tanzania route, PPS for which increased to $1,500/FEU since 20 May. Meanwhile, French shipping and logistics major CMA CGM plan to hike its Asia-to-northern Europe freights to $6,000/FEU, effective 1 June. Current container production in China could not catch up with strong demand. New China-manufactured containers to be delivered before late June have been sold out, a source at domestic logistics company said. Wang of Shenzhen Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research, however, noted that the present container shortage is not about undersupply but more about the sharp slowdown in turnover amid the global logistics disruptions. Tight shipping conditions are expected to prevail in the third quarter as demand is expected to peak, with a gradual easing of freight rates likely in the fourth quarter, he said. Focus article by Fanny Zhang Additional reporting by Joanne Wang and Lucy Shuai Thumbnail image: At the container terminal of Yantian Port in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province in south China, 16 May 2024 (Shutterstock)

22-May-2024

Besieged by imports, Brazil’s chemicals put hopes on hefty import tariffs hike

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazilian chemicals producers are lobbying hard for an increase in import tariffs for key polymers and petrochemicals from 12.6% to 20%, and higher in cases, hoping the hike could slow down the influx of cheap imports, which have put them against the wall. For some products, Brazil’s chemicals trade group Abiquim, which represents producers, has made official requests for the import tariffs to go up to a hefty 35%, from 9% in some cases. On Tuesday, Abiquim said several of its member companies “are already talking about hibernating plants” due to unprofitable economics. It did so after it published another set of somber statistics for the first quarter, when imports continued entering Brazil em masse. Brazil’s government Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex) is concluding on Tuesday a public consultation about this, with its decision expected in coming weeks. Abiquim has been busy with the public consultation: it has made as many as 66 proposals for import tariffs to be hiked for several petrochemicals and fertilizers, including widely used polymers such polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), or expandable PS (EPS), to mention just a few. Other chemicals trade groups, as well as companies, have also filed requests for import tariffs to be increased. In total, 110 import tariffs. HARD TO FIGHT OFFBrazil has always depended on imports to cover its internal chemicals demand, but the extraordinary low prices coming from competitors abroad has made Brazil’s chemicals plant to run with operating rates of 65% or lower. More and more, the country’s chemicals facilities are becoming white elephants which are far from their potential, as customers find in imported product more competitive pricing. Considering this dire situation and taking into account that the current government in Brasilia led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be more receptive to their demands, Abiquim has put a good fight in publica and private for measure which could shore up chemical producers’ competitiveness. This could come after the government already hiked import tariffs on several products in 2023 and re-introduced a tax break, called REIQ, for some chemicals which had been withdrawn by the previous Administration. While Brazil’s chemicals production competitiveness is mostly affected by higher input costs, with natural gas costs on average five times higher than in the US, the industry is hopeful a helping hand from the government in the form of higher import tariffs could slow down the flow of imports into Brazil. As a ‘price taker region’ given its dependence on imports, Latin American domestic producers have taken a hit in the past two years. In Brazil, polymers major Braskem is Abiquim’s commanding voice. Abiquim, obviously, has always been very outspoken – even apocalyptic – about the fate of its members as they try to compete with overseas countries, namely China who has been sending abroad product at below cost of production. The priorities in China’s dictatorial system are not related to the balance of markets, but to keep employment levels stable so its citizens find fewer excuses to protest against the regime which keeps them oppressed. Capitalist market dynamics are for the rest of the world to balance; in China’s dictatorial, controlled-economy regime the priority is to make people feel the regime’s legitimacy can come from never-ending economic growth. The results of such a policy for the rest of the world – not just in chemicals but in all industrial goods – is becoming clear: unprofitable industries which cannot really compete with heavily subsidized Chinese players. The results of such a policy in China are yet to be seen, but subsiding at all costs any industry which creates employment may have debt-related lasting consequences: as they mantra goes, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Abiquim’s executive president urged Lula’s cabinet to look north, to the US, where the government has imposed hefty tariffs on almost all China-produced industrial goods or raw materials for manufacturing production. “[The hikes in import tariffs] have improved the US’ scenario: despite the aggressive advance in exports by Asian countries, the drop in US [chemicals] production in 2023 was of 1%, while in Brazil the index for production fell nearly by 10%,” said Andre Passos. “The country adopted an increase in import taxes of over 30% to defend its market from unfair competition. The taxation for some inputs, such as phenol, resins and adipic [acid], for example, exceeds three digits. “Here, we are suggesting an increase in rates to 20% in most claims … We need to have this breathing space for the industry to recover,” he concluded. As such, the figures for the first quarter showed no sign of imports into Brazil slowing down. The country posted a trade deficit $9.9 billion during the January-March period; the 12-month accumulated (April 2023 to March 2024) deficit stood at $44.7 billion. A record high of 61.2 million tonnes of chemicals products entered Brazil in Q1; in turn, the country’s industry exported 14.6 million tonnes. Abiquim proposals for higher import tariffs Product Current import tariff Proposed tariff Expandable polystyrene, unfilled, in primary form 12.6% 20% Other polystyrenes in primary forms 12.6% 20% Carboxymethylcellulose with content > =75%, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other polyurethanes in liquids and pastes 12.6% 20% Phthalic anhydride 10.8% 20%  Sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate) 9% 35% Copolymers of ethylene and alpha-olefin, with a density of less than 0.94 12.6% 20% Other orthophthalic acid esters 11% 20% Other styrene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other silicon dioxides 0% 18% Other polyesters in liquids and pastes  12.6% 20% Commercial ammonium carbonates and other ammonium carbonates 9% 18% Other unsaturated polyethers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene terephthalate, with a viscosity index of 78 ml/g or more 12.6% 20% Phosphoric acid with an iron content of less than 750 ppm 9% 18% Dinonyl or didecyl orthophthalates 11% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by suspension process 12.6% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by emulsion process 12.6% 20% Methyl polymethacrylate, in primary form  12.6% 20% White mineral oils (vaseline or paraffin oils) 4% 35% Other polyetherpolyols, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled epoxy resins in primary forms 12.6% 20% Silicon dioxide obtained by chemical precipitation 9% 18% Acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber in plates, sheets, etc 11% 35% Other organic anionic surface agents, whether or not put up for retail sale, not classified under previous codes 12.6% 23% Phenol (hydroxybenzene) and its salts 7% 20% Fumaric acid, its salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Plasticizers and plastics 10 ,8% 20% Maleic anhydride 10 ,8% 20% Adipic acid salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Propylene copolymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Adipic acid 9% 20% Unfilled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Filled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Methacrylic acid methyl esters 10 ,8% 20% Other ethylene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Acrylic acid 2-ethylhexyl esters 0% 20% 2-Ethylexanoic acid (2-ethylexoic acid) 10. 8% 20% Other copolymers of ethylene and vinyl acetate, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled polyethylenes, density >= 0.94, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, unfilled 12.6% 20% Other saturated acyclic monoalcohol acetates, c atom <= 8 10. 8% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, with filler 12.6% 20% Triacetin 10. 8% 20% Sodium methylate in methanol 12.6% 20% Stearic alcohol (industrial fatty alcohol) 12.6% 20% N-butyl acetate                              11% 20% Stearic acid (industrial monocarboxylic fatty acid) 5% 35% Alkylbenzene mixtures 11% 20% Organic, non-ionic surface agents 12.6% 23% Ammonium nitrate, whether or not in aqueous solution 0.0% 15% Monoethanolamine and its salts 12.6% 20% Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol) 10.8% 20% Butan-1-ol (n-butyl alcohol) 10.8% 20% Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), food grade as established by the Food Chemical Codex, in primary forms 10.8% 22% Styrene                                9% 18% Hexamethylenediamine and its salts 10.8% 20% Latex from other synthetic or artificial rubbers 10.8% 35% Propylene glycol (propane-1, 2-diol) 10.8% 20% Preparations 12.6% 20% Linear alkylbenzene sulfonic acids and their salts 12.6% 23% 4,4'-Isopropylidenediphenol (bisphenol A, diphenylolpropane) and its salts 10.8% 20% Dipropylene glycol 12.6% 20% Butanone (methyl ethyl ketone) 10.8% 20% Ethyl acetate                                 10.8% 20% Methyl-, ethyl- and propylcellulose, hydroxylated 0.0% 20% Front page picture: Chemical production facilities outside Sao Paulo  Source: Union of Chemical and Petrochemical industries in the state of Sao Paulo (Sinproquim) Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional information by Thais Matsuda and Bruno Menini

30-Apr-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 26 April 2024. Thailand's SCG Q1 net profit slumps 85%; eyes better H2 conditions By Nurluqman Suratman 26-Apr-24 12:45 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Siam Cement Group (SCG) posted an 85% year-on-year decline in Q1 net profit on losses from chemicals operations, but the Thai conglomerate expects the segment’s earnings to recover in H2 on improved olefins demand and expected restart of its Vietnam petrochemical complex. China VAM exports jump; shipments to India surge in Q2 By Hwee Hwee Tan 25-Apr-24 13:42 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) spot offers have tumbled, boosting buying interest in its outbound cargoes, and lifting its exports to India to a multi-month high into the second quarter. SE Asia PE May offers mostly rangebound; demand still weak By Izham Ahmad 24-Apr-24 14:09 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Initial spot import offers for May shipments of polyethylene (PE) in southeast Asia were announced mostly rangebound so far in the week, while buying interest remained under pressure near recent lows. Saudi Aramco eyes stake in Hengli Petrochemical; prowls for more China investments By Fanny Zhang 23-Apr-24 14:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Aramco continues its quest for downstream petrochemical investments in the world’s second-biggest economy, adding Hengli Petrochemical in a list of target companies in which the global energy giant intends to acquire a strategic stake. PODCAST: Production constraints keep Asian BD spot trades buoyant in Q1, demand outlook mixed By Damini Dabholkar 22-Apr-24 17:35 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Persistent production constraints have driven Asia’s spot prices for butadiene (BD) to near two-year-high levels, but how the rally goes from here may hinge on downstream demand conditions. CHINAPLAS ’24: PODCAST: China PP exports strong, imports weak in Q1 By Sijia Li 22-Apr-24 16:23 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analyst Sijia Li and senior industry analyst Joanne Wang discuss developments in China's polyolefins market.

29-Apr-2024

Styrolution shutting Sarnia styrene plant after resident complaints

HOUSTON (ICIS)–INEOS Styrolution is temporarily shutting its styrene plant in Sarnia, Ontario, after nearby residents complained they became ill from the plant’s emissions. “At INEOS Styrolution, ensuring the health and safety of our employees and community is paramount,” the company said in a statement. “We are temporarily shutting down our facility located in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, to perform maintenance and address a mechanical issue. We will resume operations once addressed.” The plant has capacity to produce 445,000 tonnes/year of styrene and 490,000 tonnes/year of ethylbenzene (EB), according to the ICIS Supply and Demand Database. The shutdown came after the Aamjiwnaang First Nation community asked the government to close the plant when members complained of becoming sick and said that data indicated high levels of benzene in the air. Members reported having headaches, nausea and dizziness due to poor air quality. Aamjiwnaang First Nation describes itself as a community of about 2,500 Chippewa Aboriginal peoples located on the St Clair River in the city limits of Sarnia. Last week, Ontario Environment Minister Andrea Khanjin said that she expected the company to “quickly identify and reduce” emissions at the site, according to news reports. In 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks created the Sarnia Area Environmental Health Project to look into concerns that residents expressed about air pollutants and other quality-of-life impacts from living close to industrial operations in the area. The project includes regularly measuring air quality for potential health risks. The shutdown will further tighten the North American styrene market, which has experienced a number of outages that have put upward pressure on contract and spot prices. Styrolution’s Texas City, Texas, plant has been shut since mid-2023. In addition, Total remains on force majeure from its joint-venture CosMar unit in Carville, Louisiana, and LyondellBasell’s propylene oxide/styrene monomer (POSM) plant in Channelview, Texas, is undergoing maintenance. Shell recently restarted its Scotford, Alberta, styrene unit but it is not operating at full capacity, according to market sources. US styrene contract prices in April were assessed at their highest level since Q3 2023 due to the rise in spot prices, which are up approximately 50% since the beginning of the year. Styrene is a chemical used to make latex and polystyrene resins, which in turn are used to make plastic packaging, disposable cups and insulation. Major North American styrene producers include AmSty, INEOS Styrolution, LyondellBasell Chemical, Shell Chemicals Canada, Total Petrochemicals and Westlake Styrene.

22-Apr-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 12 April 2024. China Mar petrochemical markets mixed; Apr demand on seasonal uptick By Yvonne Shi 12-Apr-24 14:19 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Fluctuations in China’s domestic petrochemical markets were limited in March, yielding a mixed performance during the month, while a seasonal improvement in demand is expected in the near term. Tight intra-Asia container shipping space dampens recycling trades By Arianne Perez 12-Apr-24 13:34 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Major Asian recyclers are feeling the pinch of continued uptrend in spot container freight costs for trade within Asia since March. Asia naphtha demand slows down; supply stays ample By Li Peng Seng 11-Apr-24 13:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s naphtha crack, the spread between Brent crude and the chemical feedstock prices, hit a five-month low recently and it will remain under pressure in the weeks ahead as ample supplies, slower demand and firm crude prices limit any improvement in the spread. Asia ADA sees plant shutdowns amid supply overhang By Josh Quah 11-Apr-24 11:25 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s adipic acid (ADA) markets have begun to crack under the cost pressure and weak demand from the main polyurethane (PU) downstream sector. Fitch downgrades China rating outlook to ‘negative’ as debts pile up By Pearl Bantillo 10-Apr-24 15:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s fiscal challenges amid rising government debt and its prolonged property slump weighing on recovery prospects prompted Fitch to revise down its credit rating outlook for the world’s second-biggest economy to “negative” from “stable”. Korea trade body starts antidumping probe on China SM imports By Luffy Wu 09-Apr-24 14:18 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Korea Trade Commission has decided to initiate an anti-dumping investigation on imports of styrene monomer (SM) from China. INSIGHT: Positive China Q1 data overshadowed by property sector gloom By Nurluqman Suratman 09-Apr-24 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's economic narrative in early 2024 reflects a 'tale of two cities', with its ailing property sector once again playing the crucial protagonist against recent data which offered flickers of hope for the country's continued recovery this year. Saudi Arabia hikes benchmark May Arab Light OSP for Asian customers By James Dennis 08-Apr-24 18:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, increased its Official Selling Prices (OSP) for its benchmark Arab Light crude for customers in Asia for the second month in succession. Oil slumps by more than $2/bbl on Israel-Hamas ceasefire hopes By Nurluqman Suratman 08-Apr-24 12:23 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices fell by more than $2/barrel on Monday amid easing tensions in the Middle East after Israel further withdrew troops from southern Gaza and signalled a willingness to resume ceasefire talks with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

15-Apr-2024

China petrochemical futures track crude gains on upbeat March factory data

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s petrochemical futures markets were tracking gains in crude prices on Monday, with Brent trading at above $87/bbl, on bullish sentiment following a return of the world’s second-biggest economy into manufacturing expansion mode. Official, Caixin March manufacturing PMIs at above 50 China methanol, SM futures prices lead gains External demand picking up for selected goods At the close of morning trade, futures prices of major petrochemicals in Chinese commodity exchanges were up by 0.2% to 1.7%. China petrochemical futures markets Prices as of 03:30 GMT (CNY/tonne) % change vs 29 March Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) 8,279 0.60% Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 5,803 0.20% Ethylene glycol (EG) 4,499 0.50% Polypropylene (PP) 7,542 0.80% Styrene monomer (SM) 9,451 1.40% Paraxylene* 8,534 0.70% Purified terephthalic acid (PTA) * 6,016 1.30% Methanol* 2,518 1.70% Sources: Dalian Commodity Exchange, *Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange At midday, Brent crude was up 30 cents at $87.30/bbl, while US crude gained 31 cents at $83.48/bbl. Crude futures were also supported by expectations of tighter supply amid output cuts by OPEC and its allies, which include Russia. Manufacturing activity in China expanded for the first time in six months, based on official data in March, generating a purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading of 50.8, as companies accelerated production following the Lunar New Year holiday in the previous month. A separate reading by Chinese media group Caixin was more upbeat, with a higher March PMI reading of 51.1, the highest recorded since February 2023. In Caixin’s data, factory output continued to expand for the fifth straight month. The Caixin PMI surveys small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and export-oriented enterprises located in eastern coastal regions, while the official PMI is tilted toward larger state-owned enterprises. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below denotes contraction. “Both supply and demand expanded at a faster pace amid the market upturn. In March, growth in manufacturers’ output and total new orders accelerated, with the former hitting a 10-month high,” Caixin Insight Group senior economist Wang Zhe said. “External demand also picked up pace thanks to the recovery in the global economy, pushing the gauge for new export orders to its highest level since February 2023,” the economist added. “Overall, the manufacturing sector continued to improve in March, with expansion in supply and demand accelerating, and overseas demand picking up,” Wang said. “Manufacturers increased purchases and raw material inventories amid continued improvement in business optimism. However, employment remained in contraction and a depressed price level worsened,” Wang added Besides the seasonal effect, firming overseas demand also helped to push up Chinese factory activities, local brokerage Haitong Securities wrote in a note, citing that furniture, transportation equipment and electronics were enjoying strong demand. China is projected to post around a 5% GDP growth this year, slower than the 5.2% pace recorded in 2023, with a slumping property sector posing a major drag on overall economic prospects. Property and other related sectors account for about a fifth of China’s GDP. While the property slump may persist, other sectors such as electric vehicles, new energy and digital economy are posting healthy growth, said Zhang Junfeng, senior analyst at Shenzhen-based brokerage China Merchant Securities. Focus article by Fanny Zhang ($1 = CNY7.23) Additional reporting by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail image: At Lianyungang Port in east China's Jiangsu Province, 26 March 2024. (Shutterstock)

01-Apr-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 22 March. Much improved outlook from manufacturers in Germany The business climate for manufacturing in Germany improved markedly in March, the Munich-based ifo Institute said on Friday, with its latest survey results supporting wider views on an improving economy. Eurozone private sector moves closer to stability in March, UK firms The eurozone private sector came close to stabilising this month, driven by a more pronounced return to growth footing for services, but the disparity between a stronger southern Europe and ongoing weakness in France and Germany continued. INSIGHT: SAF catalyst technology could also boost biochemicals production Catalyst technology used to power the first transatlantic flight conducted by a commercial airline which used 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), could also have applications in chemicals production if a market can be developed to allow for commercial scale up. INEOS to end ethanol production at Grangemouth in Q1 2025 Slowing demand and cheap imports were cited as the key reasons why INEOS decided to halt production of synthetic ethanol at its Grangemouth site in the UK in Q1 2025. Europe PE/PP contracts settle up from February, sentiment noticeably weaker In Europe, polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) contracts for March have settled up from February and above the monomer, although sentiment has weakened.

25-Mar-2024

AFPM '24: INSIGHT: Biden ending term with regulatory bang for US chems

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The administration of US President Joe Biden is proposing a wave of regulations before its term ends in 2025, many of which will increase costs for chemical companies in the US and persist even if the nation elects a new president later this year. The prospect of such consequential policies comes as delegates head into this year's International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), hosted by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). Changes to the Clean Waters Act, the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Hazard Communication Standard are among the most consequential policies being considered by US regulators. Electric vehicles (EVs) could receive more support from federal and state governments. This would increase demand for plastics used in EVs while discouraging refiners from making further investments, which could limit US production of benzene, toluene and mixed xylenes (MX). The failure of Congress to re-authorize the nation's chemical site security program could spell its end. REGULATORY PUSH DURING ELECTION YEARSuch a regulatory push by the Biden administration was flagged last year by the Alliance for Chemical Distribution (ACD), the new name for the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). The group was not crying wolf. The next nine months could rank among the worst for the chemical industry in terms of regulatory change and potential issues, said Eric Byer, president of the ACD. "Whatever it's going to be, it will come done fairly aggressively." The Biden administration has proposed several consequential policies. For the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing new requirements, which will require chemical producers and other companies to develop plans to address the worst possible discharge from their plants. The ACD warned that the new requirement would raise compliance costs while doing little to reduce the already small number of discharges by plants. The final rule is scheduled to be published in April 2024. For the RMP, changes could require chemical companies to share information that has been off limits since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The concern is that the information will fall into the wrong hands, while significantly increasing costs to comply with the new requirements, according to the ACD. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is introducing changes to its Hazard Communication Standard that could create more burdens for companies. The ACD warned that some of the changes will increase costs without providing a commensurate improvement in safety. The EPA has started the multiyear process that, under the regulator's current whole-chemical approach, will lead to restrictions imposed on vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), acrylonitrile (ACN) and aniline, a chemical used to make methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). This is being done through the nation's main chemical safety program, known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). MORE POLICIES PROPOSED FOR EVsThe Biden administration is proposing additional polices to encourage the adoption of EVs. For chemical producers, more EVs would increase demand for plastics, resins and thermal management fluids that are designed to meet the material challenges of these automobiles. At the same time, the push towards EVs could limit sales of automobiles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs), lowering demand for gasoline and diesel. Refiners could decide to shut down and repurpose their complexes if they expect demand for their main products will stop growing or decline. That would lower production of aromatics and other refinery chemicals and refined products. The Biden administration is moving on three fronts to encourage EV sales. The EPA is expected to decide if California can adopt its Advanced Clean Car II (ACC II), which would phase out the sale of ICE-based vehicles to 2035. If the EPA grants California's request, that would trigger similar programs in several other states. The EPA's light-duty vehicle proposal would impose stricter standards on tail pipe emissions. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing stricter efficiency standards under its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. The AFPM opposes these measures. It said the EPA's light-duty vehicle proposal and DOT's new CAFE standards are so demanding, it would force automobile companies to produce a lot more EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles to meet the more ambitious requirements. LAX OVERSIGHT OF SHIPPING RATES IN WAKE OF HOUTHISThe ACD raised concerns that the US is not doing enough to address the possibility that shipping rates and delays have increased beyond what could be justified by the disruptions caused by the drought in Panama and by the Houthi attacks on vessels passing through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. The ACD accepts that costs will rise, but it expressed concerns that shipping companies could be taking advantage of the situation by charging excessive rates on routes unaffected by the disruptions. These include routes from India and China to the western coast of the US, Byer said. "Why are you jacking up the price two or threefold?" LABOR NEGOTIATIONS FOR US EAST COASTThe work contract will expire this year for dockworkers and ports along the East Coast of the US. Byer warned of a possible strike if the talks become too contentious. On the West Coast, dockworkers and ports reached an agreement on a six-year work contract. CFATS ON LIFE SUPPORTByer expressed concerns about the future of the main chemical-site security program, called the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). CFATS is overseen by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CISA lost authority to implement CFATS on 28 July 2023, when a bill that would have re-authorized it was blocked from going to a vote in the Senate. Without CFATS, other federal and state agencies could create their own chemical-site security regulations. This process has already started in the US state of Nebraska, where State Senator Eliot Bostar introduced LB1048. Other nearby states in the plains could introduce similar bills, because they tend to follow each other's lead, Byer said. Many of these state legislatures should wrap up sessions in the next couple of months, so lawmakers still have time to propose chemical-site security bills. The ACD is most concerned about larger states creating chemical-site security programs, such as California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. SENATE RAIL BILL REMAINS PENDINGA Senate rail safety bill has been pending for more than a year after a bipartisan group of legislators introduced it following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Congress has about 10 months to approve the bill before it lapses, Byer said. For bills in general, action during an election year could happen around the Memorial Day holiday in May, the 4 July recess, the August recess or before the end of September. After September, legislators will be focused on campaigning for the 5 November election. TEXAS BRINGS BACK TAX BREAKS FOR INDUSTRIAL PROJECTSTexas has revived a program that granted tax breaks to new chemical plants and other large industrial projects. The new program is called the Texas Jobs and Security Act, and it replaced the lapsed Chapter 313 School Value Limitation Agreement. The old program was popular with chemical companies, and their applications were among the first public disclosures of their expansion plans. The new program has already attracted applicants. Summit Next Gen is considering a plant that would convert 450 million gal/year of ethanol into 256 million gal/year of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Hosted by the AFPM, the IPC takes place on March 24-26. Insight article by Al Greenwood Thumbnail shows a federal building. Image by Lucky-photographer

18-Mar-2024

Americas top stories: weekly summary

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 15 March. US CPI inflation 'sticky' at 3.2%, may delay Fed rate cuts – ICIS economist US inflation, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI), rose 0.4% month on month in February, leaving it up 3.2% year on year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Tuesday. LyondellBasell sees signs of modest improvement in Q1 – CEO LyondellBasell is seeing some indications of modest improvement in its businesses, particularly in North America and Europe, with packaging being the strongest end market, its CEO said on Wednesday. US Trinseo seeks to sell stake in AmSty Trinseo has started the process to sell its 50% stake in Americas Styrenics (AmSty), the US-based engineered materials producer said on Wednesday. US outage to boost March Asia-Atlantic spot acetic acid, VAM trades Asia-Atlantic spot trades for acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) are expected to increase after supply gaps in the US and Europe emerged following an unexpected plant outage in the US. 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. INSIGHT: US aromatics, refining output recedes as peak oil approaches Peak oil demand in the US could lead to a further decline in refining capacity, which will tighten supplies of benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX) for downstream chemical producers. Unipar expects hardship in Argentina but Brazil PVC demand should recover Unipar’s operations in Argentina are set to face pressure from the current recession but a bright spot could appear in higher civil engineering activity in Brazil, propping up demand for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the Brazilian chemicals producer said on Friday.

18-Mar-2024

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