Middle East petrochemical demand outpaces supply amid turnarounds

Author: Felicia Loo

2020/10/29

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Middle East continues to face supply constraints of several petrochemical products due in part to plant shutdowns in exporting regions, while firm demand prevails.

On base oil, Iranian producers carried on selling limited spot supply through tenders.

The UAE - the main trading hub in the Middle East - is facing a lack of spot cargoes.

Compounding the situation, supply constraints in the European base oils export market are set to continue until at least December, as refineries remain sold out of heavier grades.

Demand, on the other hand, is seen stable-to-firm in the next two months.

On polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (PMDI), tight supply constraints persisted in the Middle East owing to plant turnarounds in Asia and a dearth of offers from Europe.

In addition, upholding the PMDI market are strong upstream feedstock benzene prices.

Such factors overshadowed the fact of limited downstream demand and a weak construction sector in the Middle East.

On toluene diisocyanate (TDI), downstream demand for flexible foams used in mattresses, cushions and automobile seat covers held firm.

However, the shortage in co-feedstock polyol supply meant that most buyers were not keen to procure fresh TDI cargoes.

Despite a fall in supply due to a force majeure declaration in Europe last week, the presence of competitively priced cargoes from China stemmed the upward price trajectory.

The 10-13.5% polyether polyols (POP) market in the Middle East faced highly constrained supply conditions with very limited cargoes being offered.

Firm demand was seen in conventional polyols as well as in flexible foams used in mattresses and cushions.

Meanwhile, strong demand from North America, Europe and in Asian domestic markets meant that supply availability to the Middle East suffered. Downstream flexible foam demand is set to stay firm.

Spot polystyrene (PS), demand in the Middle East has since improved, with enquiries coming from both the packaging and construction industries.

Supply conditions tightened, however, with a major Indian producer limiting exports in order to meet the needs of their domestic market.

Additional reporting by Izham Ahmad and Prateek Pillai

Focus article by Felicia Loo

Photo: A container ship unloading cargoes at the Hamad port in Doha, Qatar - 14 June 2017. (Photo by Noushad Thekkayil/EPA/Shutterstock)