TOPIC PAGE: Coronavirus, oil price direction – impact on chemicals

Author: Will Beacham

2021/07/23

In this week's podcast, after a stellar first half, global chemical markets may now go into decline, driven by destocking and faltering downstream demand.

An uncertain paraxylene (PX) market in Asia is likely to continue heading into the second half of the year, with balance largely dependent on the run rates at major PX producers in China, amid an unclear upstream outlook.

As most of Asia continue to grapple with mounting COVID-19 cases, extremely tight supply of post-consumer bottles (PCB) bale feedstock casts uncertainty in the level of production for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) flakes and pellets in the region.

Asian PET market is likely to track upstream price movements amid uneven distribution of supply and demand and shipping challenges.

Margins for US polyethylene (PE) producers are likely to remain at elevated levels through the second half of the year, buoyed by packaging demand and favourable production economics for US producers.

Domestic demand for PE has remained strong since the onset of the pandemic, with consumption staying strong even during the recession months of spring 2020, largely due to the heavy exposure of PE to non-durable consumer goods such as food packaging and packaging goods associated with online shopping.

US benzene is strengthening in H2 on firm upstream markets and improving derivative production, as the country’s economic recovery continues.

Shipping container rates have spiked by as much as three or four times since the onset of the pandemic and are likely to remain elevated beyond the Lunar New Year in 2022 as the global demand for goods continues to outpace available capacity.

Supply of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and polymeric methylene diisocyanate (PMDI) to the Middle East is showing some signs of tightening in the second half as upstream oil and feedstock prices strengthen.

Meanwhile, "[c]limate change is a challenge that requires both urgent action and an approach that is global, collaborative and encourages coordination between all parties,” according to Shell CEO Ben van Buerden.

Shell confirmed it will appeal against the court ruling in the Netherlands (a district court in The Hague) that requires it to reduce (or cause to be reduced) the CO2 emissions attributable to its businesses and sold products by at least 45% at the end of 2030 from 2019 levels. That sits against its intermediate target at the time the case was brought of 20%. Shell has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Updated on 23 July

On this topic page we analyse the impact of coronavirus and oil price dynamics on chemical markets and bring together the latest news reported by ICIS. 

Scroll down to see the latest interactive graphics, podcasts and videos. 

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LATEST HEADLINES

INSIGHT: OUTLOOK: Asia PET to track upstream pricing, supply and demand uneven
By Hazel Goh 23-Jul-21 14:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Asia polyethylene terephthalate (PET) market is likely to track upstream price movements amid uneven distribution of supply and demand and shipping challenges.

Uncertainty grips Asian R-PET market
By Arianne Perez 23-Jul-21 12:09 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--As most of Asia continue to grapple with mounting COVID-19 cases, extremely tight supply of post-consumer bottles (PCB) bale feedstock casts uncertainty in the level of production for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) flakes and pellets in the region.

OUTLOOK: Asian PX market continues to face uncertainty in H2 2021
By Samuel Wong 22-Jul-21 12:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--An uncertain paraxylene (PX) market in Asia is likely to continue heading into the second half of the year, with balance largely dependent on the run rates at major PX producers in China, amid an unclear upstream outlook.

OUTLOOK: US benzene strengthens into H2 on firm upstream markets, improving derivative demand
By Adam Burkin 22-Jul-21 04:02 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US benzene is strengthening in H2 on firm upstream markets and improving derivative production, as the country’s economic recovery continues.

INSIGHT: OUTLOOK: US PE margins likely to remain elevated in H2
By Zachary Moore 21-Jul-21 23:03 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Margins for US polyethylene (PE) producers are likely to remain at elevated levels through the second half of the year, buoyed by packaging demand and favourable production economics for US producers.

OUTLOOK: Shipping container rates to remain elevated into 2022 as US demand outpaces capacity
By Adam Yanelli 21-Jul-21 01:46 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Shipping container rates have spiked by as much as three or four times since the onset of the pandemic and are likely to remain elevated beyond the Lunar New Year in 2022 as the global demand for goods continues to outpace available capacity.

INSIGHT: Persuading others to change is a huge climate challenge for the energy majors
By Nigel Davis 21-Jul-21 00:06 LONDON (ICIS)--"Climate change is a challenge that requires both urgent action and an approach that is global, collaborative and encourages coordination between all parties,” Shell CEO Ben van Buerden said on Tuesday.

OUTLOOK: Mideast isocyanates supply tightens in H2 as oil, feedstock gain
By Damini Dabholkar 20-Jul-21 13:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Supply of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and polymeric methylene diisocyanate (PMDI) to the Middle East is showing some signs of tightening in the second half as upstream oil and feedstock prices strengthen.

PODCAST: Chemical markets may have peaked, expect H2 slowdown
By Will Beacham 20-Jul-21 19:36 BARCELONA (ICIS)--After a stellar first half, global chemical markets may now go into decline, driven by destocking and faltering downstream demand.

SE Asia industries suffer output cuts amid raging COVID-19 battle
By Nurluqman Suratman 2021/07/16 Petrochemical downstream industries in southeast Asia have been running at reduced capacity on poor demand, amid an ongoing battle with the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant and slow vaccine rollouts in the region.

Singapore's petrochemical exports rise by 51.2% in June
By Nurluqman Suratman 2021/07/16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Singapore's petrochemical exports rose by 51.2% year on year to Singapore dollar (S$) 1.33bn in June, supporting the strong growth in overall non-oil domestic exports (NODX), official data showed on Friday.

The continued expansion in overall exports and NODX underlines the continued recovery in global trade demand.

PODCAST: Asia, China's styrene markets could stay in a short-term limbo
Both Asia’s and China's styrene price movements have been affected by cost pressure stemming from firmer upstream benzene and ethylene performance, together with a seasonal lull in China's downstream domestic demand and squeezed styrenics production spreads.

INSIGHT: SE Asia economic recovery at risk from Delta virus variant
By Nurluqman Suratman 2021/07/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Rising coronavirus caseloads from the Delta variant and slow vaccination rollouts in key southeast Asian economies may derail their recovery as governments impose fresh restrictions to stem further outbreaks.

While petrochemicals production across the region has not been heavily weighed by restrictions, downstream demand in domestic markets has been badly hit by the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

PODCAST: China's phenol prices surge in H1 2021, demand to rise sharply in H2
By Yoyo Liu 09-Jul-21 14:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--In this episode of the ICIS Asia podcast, analyst Jady Ma speaks with analyst Yoyo Liu about China’s phenol market. Phenol prices surged in H1 on supply tightness and benzene support; demand would surge in H2 amid intensive capacity expansion of BPA and phenolic resins.

Asian R-PET recyclers continue low output on feedstock supply squeeze
By Arianne Perez 09-Jul-21 12:49 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) producers in Asia continue to operate on reduced output rates due to persistent tight availability of post-consumer bottle (PCB) bale feedstock.

OUTLOOK: Asia’s petchem markets hit by ample supply, rise in Delta variant cases
By Felicia Loo 09-Jul-21 10:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The outlook for many Asian chemical markets is geared towards ample supply amid rising cases of the COVID-19 delta variant, which has prompted emergency responses in the region. Demand has been eroded in tandem with the regional economies.

Canada wildfires affect shipments at Port of Vancouver
By Stefan Baumgarten 09-Jul-21 00:32 TORONTO (ICIS)--The wildfires that have been raging in Canada’s British Columbia province in past weeks have begun affecting commodity and other freight rail shipments into the Port of Vancouver, officials said.

INSIGHT: OPEC+ deadlock hits US olefins markets as supplies loosen
By Al Greenwood 08-Jul-21 23:01 HOUSTON (ICIS)--The alliance between OPEC and other oil-producing nations reached a deadlock on a new production agreement right when US olefins supplies were recovering from a year's worth of supply disruptions.

Europe R-PET PCB contamination rising, yields dropping
By Matt Tudball 08-Jul-21 22:32 LONDON (ICIS)--Buyers of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) post-consumer bottle bales (PCBs) in Europe have noted a rise in contamination levels over the past few months, resulting in lower yields.

Fire from container ship blast in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port under control
By Ruth Liao 08-Jul-21 06:24 HOUSTON (ICIS)--A fire caused a massive explosion from a container vessel anchored within the port of Jebel Ali early on 8 July, according to a social media post from the Dubai state media office.

Europe's polycarbonate scarcity may draw competition
By Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 06-Jul-21 22:17 LONDON (ICIS)--The structural lack of polycarbonate (PC) seen in Europe among traditional suppliers this year has prompted many buyers to seek new sellers in other regions.

OUTLOOK: Strong demand, disrupted supply to keep European AA tight
By Mathew Jolin-Beech 06-Jul-21 21:33 LONDON (ICIS)--Tight supply in the European acrylic acid is expected to persist in the second half of this year.

Indonesia chemicals markets slow down on new COVID-19 restrictions
By Nurluqman Suratman 02-Jul-21 12:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Indonesia's chemicals markets are expected to slow down as new emergency measures come into effect across major parts of the country from 3-20 July to stem a massive surge in coronavirus cases.

PODCAST: Europe Q3 BDO and PBT to be influenced by supply and import availability
By ICIS Editorial 02-Jul-21 00:32 LONDON (ICIS)--Third-quarter contract price negotiations are underway in the European butanediol (BDO) market and its derivative polybutylene terephthalate (PBT).

INSIGHT: Europe petrochemicals disconnect between costs and prices
By Nigel Davis 01-Jul-21 00:22 LONDON (ICIS)--The disconnect between costs and prices is clear across petrochemical markets in Europe as the region suffers from continued coronavirus-led isolation and restricted imports.

Europe ABS supply shortage to continue in July, multiple issues add further pressure
By Stephanie Wix 01-Jul-21 04:07 LONDON (ICIS)--The severe supply shortage affecting the European acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) market is expected to continue into July, caused by low supplier stocks, a backlog of demand, production issues in the supply chain, and an ongoing lack of imports from Asia.

Europe SAN supply shortage to continue into July with lack of imports, backlog of demand
By Stephanie Wix 01-Jul-21 02:12 LONDON (ICIS)--The supply shortage is expected to continue into July in the European styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) market, driven by ongoing upstream production issues, suppliers on allocation, low imports from Asia, and a backlog of demand going back several months.

Asian acrylic acid and acrylates remain firm; supply outlook mixed
By Li Li Chng 30-Jun-21 22:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Asian acrylic acid (AA) and acrylates markets remain firm, buoyed by a recent plant outage in southeast Asia and a firmer trend for domestic prices in China.

Asia’s fatty acids market lacklustre despite cut in India’s crude palm oil import duty
By Helen Yan 30-Jun-21 16:29 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s fatty acids market remained lacklustre as players stayed on the sidelines despite news that India will cut its import duty for crude palm oil and that Indonesia will reduce its export tax and levy for the palm oil complex markets.

PODCAST: Supply chain disruption ripples through chemical markets
By Will Beacham 29-Jun-21 21:12 BARCELONA (ICIS)--Record-high container logistics costs and delays are impacting chemical markets in different ways, with margins spiking in Europe while a massive gap opens up between regional polymer prices.

Middle East's petchems largely face oversupply, sluggish demand
By Felicia Loo 25-Jun-21 12:36 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Middle East's petrochemicals are broadly facing a similar trend of ample supply and thin demand, and this is likely to persist through the summer season.

PODCAST: China PE to see ample supply in H2 after new capacity additions
By Joanne Wang 25-Jun-21 12:01 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--In this episode of the ICIS Asia podcast, analyst Jady Ma speaks with analyst Joanne Wang about China’s PE market.

Asia PVC supply lengthens; regional demand mixed
By Jonathan Chou 25-Jun-21 11:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia's polyvinyl chloride (PVC) spot supply has improved from this week while deep-sea availability from the US remained constricted amid signs of mixed demand in the region.

PODCAST: US BD supply shortages persist months after winter storm, limiting availability for SBR
By Amanda Hay 24-Jun-21 23:12 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Shortages of US butadiene (BD) are pressuring domestic styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) prices, with producers caught between insufficient BD supply and unyielding downstream demand from tyre producers.

INSIGHT: Petchems may face longer lead times for parts for outages
By Al Greenwood 24-Jun-21 22:24 HOUSTON (ICIS)--If petrochemical plants and refineries sustain any damage during this year's hurricane season, they may need to wait longer to get replacement parts or spend more money getting them shipped on time.

INSIGHT: US, Europe petchems face uncertain future as Asia, Middle East mega-refineries come onstream
By Will Beacham 23-Jun-21 23:08 BARCELONA (ICIS)--Petrochemicals producers which are non-integrated or attached to older, smaller oil refineries face an uncertain future as new, efficient mega-refineries come onstream in Asia and the Middle East which will accelerate the closure of other facilities.

Supply chains, shortages, inflation biggest risks to US economy – ACC
By Joseph Chang 23-Jun-21 04:26 NEW YORK (ICIS)--Global supply chain constraints, shortages of materials and labour, and inflation are the biggest risks to the US economic outlook, the chief economist of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Tuesday.

Asia's electric vehicle market to surge in 2021 on China growth
By Nurluqman Suratman 22-Jun-21 13:51 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia's electric vehicle (EV) market will continue to grow at a fast pace, supported by strong sales growth in China, as more countries in the region look to support EV uptake to reduce emissions. EV sales in Asia are projected to jump by 78.1% year on year in 2021, up from the estimated growth of just 4.8% last year, Fitch Solutions Risk & Industry Research said.

China’s distillates yield to fall as chemical integration trend accelerates
By Yu Yunfeng 18-Jun-21 11:36 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--An increasing number of refiners in China are shifting their focus from the fuels market where margins are squeezed amid ample supply, to seek better returns in the downstream petrochemicals markets for better value addition.

INSIGHT: US needs rapid recycling growth to meet industry pledges
By Al Greenwood 18-Jun-21 05:09 HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US will need to expand its recycling capacity at a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 40% if it is to meet goals to produce plastic packaging containing 25% post-consumer resins (PCR) by 2025, an analyst with ICIS said.

Europe chemical tanker shipping market faces slow spot interest
By Marta Fern 18-Jun-21 00:54 LONDON (ICIS)-- European chemical tanker market fundamentals have remained broadly unchanged in June, with spot space length caused by sluggish interest coinciding with broadly stable Contract of Affreightment (COA) volumes on most intra-Europe, Transatlantic and Asia-bound routes.

PODCAST: Europe PA value chain supply tightness easing amid healthy demand
By ICIS Editorial 17-Jun-21 17:25 LONDON (ICIS)--The orthoxylene (OX) - phthalic anhydride (PA) - plasticizers value chain has seen a number of supply hiccups in the first half of 2021. Against a background of buoyant demand, tightness has characterised all three markets in the first quarter and the start of the second.

Asia's chemicals a mixed picture post-Dragon Boat Festival holiday
By Felicia Loo 17-Jun-21 15:01 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian chemicals paint a mixed picture on supply and demand after the recent Dragon Boat Festival against a backdrop of slowing economic data.

INSIGHT: Egypt pins growth hopes on petchems, but questions remain
By Paolo Scafetta 16-Jun-21 21:38 MILAN (ICIS)--Egypt’s potential to become a northern African energy and petrochemicals hub has long been discussed, but question marks remain over whether the political will and business appetite is there to bring the idea to fruition.

Asia crude glycerine to stay subdued; China demand yet to pick up
By Helen Yan 16-Jun-21 14:22 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s crude glycerine market is expected to remain subdued in the near term despite the re-opening of the Chinese market following a three-day holiday.

PODCAST: Can industry rise to the challenge of a low carbon future?
By Will Beacham 15-Jun-21 21:26 BARCELONA (ICIS)--The chemical industry faces an uphill battle to transform itself quickly enough for a low carbon future. It is a battle it must win.

East Asia, Pacific growth to rebound to 7.7% in 2021 – World Bank
By Nurluqman Suratman 09-Jun-21 11:48 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Economic growth in the east Asia and Pacific region is projected to strengthen to 7.7% in 2021 from 1.2% last year, primarily reflecting the strong rebound in China, the World Bank said late on Tuesday.

Growth in China is projected to pick up to 8.5% this year, up by 0.6 percentage point from a previous projection, supported by buoyant exports and the relief of pent-up demand amid effective control of the coronavirus outbreak.

Asia manufacturing continues recovery in May despite COVID-19 restrictions
By Nurluqman Suratman 2021/06/04 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia's manufacturing sector continued to expand in May despite fresh restrictions imposed to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases in some economies.

US researchers raise prediction on named storms in 2021 Atlantic hurricane season
By Adam Yanelli 2021/06/03 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) raised their prediction on the number of named storms expected during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on Tuesday and runs through 30 November.

More than 31m homes at risk to damage from storm surge, winds this hurricane season - CoreLogic
By Adam Yanelli 03/Jun/21 HOUSTON (ICIS)--More than 31m single-family homes along the US Gulf and Atlantic coasts are at elevated risk of damage from storm surge or winds from hurricanes in the 2021 season, which began this week, according to real-estate information provider CoreLogic.

INSIGHT: Spain chemicals hope to make virtue out of pandemic hit in the 2020s
By Jonathan Lopez 2021/06/03 LONDON (ICIS)--The Spanish chemicals industry is hoping for another golden decade as it prepares for the green revolution, despite a worsening political environment where paralysis and instability have become the dominant feature.

Fire-hit container ship off Sri Lanka coast starts to sink
By Pearl Bantillo 2021/06/03 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The fire-hit container ship off the coast of Sri Lanka has started to sink on Thursday, with no signs of oil or chemical spills detected so far, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) said.

PODCAST: Mid-2021 review and H2 2021 outlook for acetic acid industrial chain
By Jady Ma 03/Jun/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--In this episode of the ICIS Asia podcast, analyst Candy Nie speaks with analyst Jady Ma and Anna Xiang about China’s acetic acid industrial chain.

PODCAST: Do not ignore demographics - they drive chemicals demand
By Will Beacham 01/Jun/21 BARCELONA (ICIS)--Chemical company leaders must take account of demographic trends because they have a strong influence on chemical demand patterns.

Malaysia lockdown to hit palm oil output; oleochemicals demand weak
By Helen Yan 01/Jun/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Palm oil output in Malaysia will be limited by a manpower crunch as the country goes into a nationwide lockdown for two weeks from 1 June, but demand is expected to slow down from downstream oleochemicals markets.

VIDEO: Asia PVC momentum to slow down for June
By Jonathan Chou 2021/05/28 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Markets Editor Jonathan Chou discusses the demand-supply balance for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in Asia.

PODCAST: Crude oil largely recovered from Colonial cyber attack, braces for hurricane season
By Ignacio Sotolongo 2021/05/27 HOUSTON (ICIS)--The recent Colonial pipeline cyber attack has paved new roads into the operations of the US crude oil market. Market expert Ignacio Sotolongo discusses other potential disruptors to crude in the following podcast interview by Anna Matherne and Alex Snodgrass.

US Vertex eyes renewable diesel, base oil functionality with Shell site
By Amanda Hay 2021/05/27 HOUSTON (ICIS)--A renewable diesel project is at the center of Vertex Energy’s purchase of Shell’s Mobile, Alabama, refinery, but the site’s base oil functionality adds upside, CEO Ben Cowart said on the transaction conference call.

VIDEO: China LDPE market trapped in weak fundamentals in Q2' 21
By Joanne Wang 2021/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Watch industry analyst Joanne Wang share with us the recent plunge in China’s LDPE market.

Singapore-flagged container ship on fire for days off Sri Lanka coast
By Pearl Bantillo 2021/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--A fire has been raging for days on board a Singapore-flagged container vessel off the coast of Sri Lanka, while efforts to extinguish the blaze continued.

INSIGHT: China jet fuel export outlook bleak amid slow air travel recovery
By Anita Yang 2021/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s jet fuel exports will not return to pre-pandemic levels this year as global air travel is expected to stay low with border restrictions still in place in most countries.

UK Reach government decision expected in June
By Morgan Condon 2021/05/27 LONDON (ICIS)--UK chemicals industry officials are expecting the government to reach a decision on the nation’s post-Brexit regulations in June, the Chemical Business Association (CBA) said on Thursday.

German exports fall in May, Q1 trade with UK erodes on Brexit
By Morgan Condon 2021/05/26 LONDON (ICIS)--International trade continues to evolve in the fallout of the pandemic, affecting the chemicals industry and related downstream markets.

Japan's au Jibun Bank flash manufacturing PMI falls to 52.5 in May
By Nurluqman Suratman 2021/05/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--au Jibun Bank’s flash manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for Japan dipped to 52.5 in May from 53.6 in April amid a drop in both output and new order growth, the Japanese bank said on Friday.

BLOG: We need a global agreement that sets targets for reducing plastic waste
By John Richardson 2021/05/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson. We need a global agreement that sets targets for reducing plastic rubbish in the oceans.

VIDEO: China's mixed aromatics tax impact on toluene, xylene limited
By Veronica Zhang 2021/05/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Also, watch industry analyst Veronica Zhang discuss the recent consumption tax on imported mixed-aromatics in China and its impact on the toluene and xylene markets.

ANALYSIS AND RESOURCES