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Updated to Q3 2021
A Japanese producer may see its VCM operating rates return to normal in Q3. Its operating rates were lowered since 3 June due to technical issues at its upstream ethylene dichloride (EDC) unit. A major northeast Asian producer will lower its operating rates amid a scheduled turnaround in September. Nevertheless, operating rates are expected to remain healthy at other regional producers if downstream PVC margins remain favourable.
Demand for VCM is largely affected by main derivative PVC. VCM demand from suspension-grade PVC makers in China is expected to remain supported for much of Q3 due to healthy domestic consumption but may fall towards the end of the quarter as the seasonal winter lull approaches. On the other hand, the demand outlook is mixed for India, a major import market of downstream PVC. Demand is expected to be dampened due to the monsoon season in the country but may improve towards late Q3.
VCM supply may increase in Q3. Production issues are likely to be resolved going forward which will increase availability compared to Q2. The prospect of importing volumes remains poor because of high transport costs for VCM combined with a global shortage of containers. Demand is also expected to be stable or lower which will increase availability relative to supply.
VCM demand is likely to be stable or lower compared to the previous quarter. Business activity typically falls in August during the summer holidays, which will limit the production of downstream products. The outlook for the construction industry remains strong in the second half of the year. Spot demand is expected to remain a very small proportion of VCM consumption in Europe, with the majority of capacity integrated into downstream PVC production systems.
Supply of US VCM is set to increase during Q3 as the remaining production problems are addressed. The pace of the production restoration has been difficult to gauge because of plant outages up and down the production chain – from ethane crackers to chlorine production – and the manufacture of other catalysts and varying other chemical inputs. Ongoing strong demand for PVC is expected to spur efforts to restore production and supply of the monomer.
Demand for VCM to make PVC has been at near-record levels for the past 12 months and all indications are that it will continue through Q3. While summer is the peak demand season for US VCM to make PVC, current strong demand and limited supply has lifted demand to high levels in recent months – reaching the level of peak demand season both before and after the season itself.
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