Higher crude, Asia pressure US spot PX up

Source: ICIS News

2019/01/11

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US spot paraxylene (PX) increased amid higher crude and naphtha prices in the global market.

Heightened crude and naphtha pushed Asia prices higher, in turn putting upward pressure on the US market.

US spot PX was assessed higher at $945-1,050/tonne FOB on Friday from $900-1,000/tonne the previous week.

ICIS Editorial Chart goes here

Domestic demand remains weak amid seasonal downturn in downstream polyester markets and limiting prices from increasing further.

Flint Hills shut unit No. 2 at its US Corpus Christi West Refinery on 7 January amid a leak. The plant is shut so the company can replace the seal.

Flint Hills did not indicate when the plant would reopen.

The Flint Hills shutdown is a unit that uses mixed xylenes (MX) to produce on-purpose PX.

As such, the shutdown is unlikely to have a major impact on domestic supply unless it extends into refinery maintenance season, as US MX and PX supply is healthy relative to weak domestic demand.

PX-to-MX spread

That said, the spread between PX and mixed xylenes (MX) remains healthy, with producers focusing on MX-to-PX conversion units over less-viable selective-toluene disproportionation (STDP) given the negative spread between US spot toluene and benzene.

The following analytical chart shows the justifiability of MX consumption for on-purpose PX production.

ICIS Editorial Chart goes here

The spread is expected to remain largely healthy over the first quarter amid weaker demand for both MX and PX.

PX is used to produce PTA, which is an intermediate in the production of PET. Major producers of US PX are BP, Chevron Phillips Chemical, ExxonMobil, Flint Hills Resources and Indorama.