BARCELONA (ICIS)--There was no clear direction for petrochemical prices last month as the global ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) climbed 2.3%.
That rise was based on a regional increase of 4.1% in northwest Europe, a 2.3% increase in the index value for northeast Asia and a 0.6% increase in the US.
A wide variety of factors were at work on individual product prices as ethylene fell sharply in the US and northeast Asia, propylene prices dropped 10.1% in the US and butadiene prices rebounded across the globe.
It is difficult to determine the overarching driving force for the recorded price changes. Regional markets have largely reacted to regional influences.
A lower contract settlement for US ethylene in February was in line with falling spot prices, for instance. Production rates were good after Hurricane Harvey-related tightness.
Consumption was hampered by the force majeure declarations at two US Gulf polyethylene (PE) plants and some new PE units not achieving full operation rates. And, according to ICIS, an estimated 3m tonnes of US PE capacity was either offline or disrupted.
Northeast Asia ethylene was long as producers built inventory ahead of spring maintenance shutdowns and prices fell as a result.
In sharp contrast, the Europe ethylene contract reference price for February was agreed up €20/tonne from January.
In the US, propylene prices took a 10.1% tumble in February while prices were higher in both northwest Europe and northeast Asia. Some of that rise in Asia looks as though it has been lost in recent days.
Butadiene (BD) prices continued their rollercoaster ride, with prices up 11% in the US, 8% in northwest Europe and 10.7% in northeast Asia.
Benzene prices were down in the three regions while toluene was up sharply in the US, higher in northwest Europe and flat in northeast Asia.
The ICIS petrochemical index tracks the movement of 12 major petrochemicals and polymers: ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, paraxylene (PX), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), styrene, polystyrene (PS), methanol and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with the regional indexes weighted by capacity.
The index values are subject to change as contract prices settle. Styrene has not yet settled for February in the US.
By Nigel Davis