US April ethylene contracts settle at 18-year low on ample supply, soft demand

Michael Sims


HOUSTON (ICIS)–US April ethylene contracts settled for the majority of participants at a decrease of 1.25 cents/lb ($28/tonne), as lower spot prices outweighed higher cash costs amid muted demand.

The settlement puts April contracts at 20.50 cents/lb, down from 21.75 cents/lb in March.

Contacts are at their lowest since settling at 19.75 cents/lb in February 2002.

Average spot prices fell by about 4 cents/lb month on month, remaining near record lows for most of April, as ample supply outpaced coronavirus-weakened demand.

Front-month ethylene traded in April at 8.000-9.000 cents/lb, down from 10.000-14.375 cents/lb in March.

Long supply has been persistent as a flurry of cracker start-ups and capacity expansions has not yet been matched by downstream demand.

The demand shortfall is attributable to several factors, including delayed derivative plant start-ups, reduced global economic activity and less export demand.

Average cracker cash costs were about 1.5 cents/lb higher as drilling cuts reduced natural gas liquids (NGL) production, pressuring ethane prices.

Ethylene is a key petrochemical feedstock, used to make polyethylene (PE), ethylene glycol (EG) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) among other products.

Major US ethylene producers include Chevron Phillips Chemical, DowDuPont, ExxonMobil, INEOS Olefins & Polymers, LyondellBasell and Shell Chemical.

Visit the ICIS Coronavirus topic page for analysis of the impact on chemical markets and links to latest news.


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