LONDON (ICIS)--The production of ethylene, propylene and butadiene (BD) in western Europe was down 7-8% in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018, according to the latest figures from Petrochemicals Europe.
2019 has been notable for its planned cracker maintenance slate, which was the heaviest seen for some time .
Up to 12 crackers had scheduled turnarounds and there was an unprecedented supply crunch in the spring as the downtime at two of Europe’s largest crackers - BASF’s cracker at Antwerp in Belgium and Shell’s cracker at Moerdijk, Netherlands - coincided.
Not all the crackers were able to get back online and on time either. Unplanned events were also fairly common and various crackers found themselves offline throughout the course of the year.
Scheduled (orange) versus unscheduled (red) cracker outages – Jan-Nov 2019 ethylene view:
Softer than expected demand - leading to some small tweaks in operating rates - will also have been a factor, but these demand impacts are more likely to have been a bit more pronounced in the second half of 2019 – although figures for the last two quarters of this year will not be published until 2020.
The output of ethylene was the lowest for a second quarter - which is traditionally peak demand season - since 2012.*
The output of propylene in Q2 was the lowest recorded since 2000. Although this partly reflects some feedstock slate changes over the past couple of years, propylene supply from crackers was still down 9% year on year.*
Butadiene (BD) output was 5% lower in the first quarter compared with 2018, and 10% lower in the second, which was the lowest amount of volume produced since 2015.*
Ethylene is a key petrochemical feedstock, used to make polyethylene (PE), ethylene glycol (EG) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) among other products.
The main outlet for propylene is as a feedstock for polypropylene (PP). Propylene is also used to produce acrylonitrile (ACN), propylene oxide (PO), a number of alcohols,
BD is a key feedstock for synthetic rubbers, largely styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), which is used in tyre manufacturing. BD is extracted from crude C4s.
*EU15 + Norway, Turkey included 2015-2016
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Photo: PCK oil refiner in Schwedt, Berlin, Germany (photo by Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)