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Americas top stories: weekly summary
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 19 July. Westlake appoints Jean-Marc Gilson as new CEO, effective today US-based chemical and building materials producer Westlake Corp has appointed Jean-Marc Gilson as president and CEO, effective 15 July. He succeeds Albert Chao, who becomes executive chairman of the Westlake board of directors. SW ’24: US fertilizer demand lacking as farm economics unsupportive Unfavorable farming fundamentals, including weaker grain prices, high cost of credit, and weather issues will continue to hit demand for fertilizers, said market participants on the sidelines of the Southwestern fertilizer conference (14-18 July). SHIPPING: USG-Asia liquid chem tanker rates plunge on ample space availability after Beryl Liquid chemical tanker rates from the US Gulf to Asia are plunging this week as plant shutdowns and delays in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl have led to “gaping large holes of space”, shipping brokers said on Wednesday. INSIGHT: OUTLOOK: US chems may see revival of programs, UN plastic treaty The US chemical industry could see the return of some popular trade and chemical-safety programs later this year, and customers of the major railroads could get their first chance to switch carriers if they get bad service. Global IT issues impact energy trading; Trayport services return IT issues that impacted energy trading systems on Friday morning were gradually being resolved, with market participants regaining access to critical applications. ICIS Economic Summary: US eyes coming interest rate cuts as consumer spending, inflation eases With solid progress on disinflation and the labor market easing, financial markets are sharpening their focus on the coming interest rate cut cycle, with the first move expected in September. Ten-year Treasury yields are collapsing and economically sensitive stocks surging, as consensus moves to as much as three cuts of 25 basis points by the Federal Reserve in 2024 and further easing next year.
Latin America stories: weekly summary
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 19 July. NEWS Braskem Idesa ethane supply more stable, PE prices to recover in H2 2025 – exec Supply of ethane from Pemex to polyethylene (PE) producer Braskem Idesa is now more stable after a renegotiation of the contract – but the global PE market remains in the doldrums, according to an executive at the Mexican firm. INSIGHT: Colombia’s wide single-use plastics ban kicks off amid industry reluctance Colombia’s single-use plastic ban, which affects a wide range of products, kicks off amid some industry reluctance after a hurried implementation, and with provisions to revise the legislation after a one year trial period. Brazil’s chemicals capacity utilization falls to record low in May at 58% The utilization rate at Brazil’s chemical plants fell to 58% in May, the lowest level since records began in 1990, the country’s chemicals trade group Abiquim said on Wednesday. Brazil’s floods hit GDP growth in 2024 but strong recovery in 2025 – IMF The IMF has revised Brazil’s economic outlook for 2024, with GDP growth now forecast at 2.1%, down from an earlier projection of 2.2%, because of the floods in Rio Grande do Sul. Mota-Engil, PEMEX agree to build new ammonia, urea and AdBlue plant in Mexico Mota-Engil, through its subsidiary MOTA-ENGIL MEXICO, has signed an agreement with Pemex Transformación Industrial, a subsidiary of state-owned energy major Petróleos Mexicanos (“PEMEX”), to construct a fertilizer plant in Escolin in the state of Vera Cruz. Harvest Minerals undertakes rare earth elements exploration at Brazil fertilizer project Fertilizer producer Harvest Minerals announced a two-phase rare earth elements exploration program has commenced at its Arapua project in Brazil. Stolthaven Terminals chosen as potential operator for Brazil green ammonia export terminal Logistics firm Stolthaven Terminals announced that in cooperation with Global Energy Storage (GES), it has been selected as the only potential operator to design, build and operate a green ammonia terminal in Brazil to be located within the industrial export zone at Pecem in the state of Ceara. Silver Valley Metals selling Idaho project to refocus on Mexico lithium and SOP project Brownfield exploration company Silver Valley Metals announced it has signed an asset purchase agreement for the Ranger-Page project in Idaho which will allow it to refocus efforts at its lithium and potash project in central Mexico. BHP enters into further agreement with Vale over 2015 Brazil dam failure BHP announced it has entered into an agreement with Vale regarding group action proceedings in the UK in respect of the Fundao Dam failure in Brazil which occurred in 2015. PRICING Lat Am PE international prices stable to up on higher US export offers International polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed as steady to higher across Latin American countries on the back of higher US export offers. PP domestic prices fall in Argentina on sluggish demand, ample supply Domestic polypropylene (PP) prices were assessed lower in Argentina on the back of sluggish demand and ample supply. In other Latin American countries, prices were unchanged. US Gulf sees PVC price decline, Latin America stays stable Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) demand in Brazil has shown fluctuations from weak-to-stable this July, accompanied by sufficient supply. Although market prices have stabilized, local prices continue to face pressure following a recent price drop in the US Gulf market.
BLOG: European voters rally to the centre as external threats increase
LONDON (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Chemicals & The Economy by Paul Hodges, which looks at Europe’s political centre. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. Paul Hodges is the chairman of consultants New Normal Consulting.

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PODCAST: Europe PET, R-PET face uncertain H2 2024
LONDON (ICIS)–Senior editor for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Caroline Murray, and senior editor for Recycling, Matt Tudball, discuss the current state of the PET and recycled PET (R-PET) markets and the uncertainties that both face for the rest of the year, including: Lower-than-expected PET demand PET exports head out of Europe High freight costs hit imports Upcoming recycled content targets for R-PET Lack of clarity about recycling legislation Limited availability of food-grade R-PET pellets
Europe top stories: weekly summary
LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 19 July. Europe PX to face weaker downstream demand, support from higher freight costs The European paraxylene (PX) industry is heading towards the second half of the year sandwiched between the news of structural downstream production cuts and the temporary support from high freight rates from Asia, which is making domestic production of PX derivatives more appealing than imports. Ursula von der Leyen wins second term for top EU job, stresses need for EU competitiveness Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday secured her re-election to a second five-year term as President of the European Commission, and identified competitiveness as the most pressing issue facing the EU. Europe BDO demand recovery in 2024 unlikely, logistics disruptions in focus After the uptick in domestic consumption during H1 2024 compared to prior expectations, the European butanediol (BDO) market is expecting a return to lacklustre demand trends with trade flow challenges still a key factor in dynamics. Europe MX H2 demand remains mired in deep waters Demand for mixed xylenes (MX) in the European market was subdued in the first half of the year, with the outlook remaining bearish for the rest of 2024. Europe shows shoots of recovery as market bottoms out – IMF Strong service sector performance and robust exports through 2024 amid cooling inflation points to the eurozone economy bottoming out following the emergence of tentative green shoots during the first quarter of the year, the IMF said. Freight chaos, trade dispute could support EU epoxy in H2, rebound unlikely Deep-sea freight and logistical challenges, along with the EU antidumping probe on several Asian epoxy imports could trigger shifts in favour of local sourcing in the second half of the year, although optimism remains low regarding any recovery in a still difficult climate.
India’s RIL fiscal Q1 oil-to-chemicals earnings fall 14% on poor margins
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Reliance Industries Ltd’s (RIL) oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business posted a 14.3% year-on-year drop in earnings in its fiscal first quarter ending June 2024 on poor chemicals margins, the Indian conglomerate said. O2C results in 10 million rupees (Rs) Apr-June 2024 Apr-June 2023 % Change Revenue 157,133 133,031 18.1 EBITDA 13,093 15,286 -14.3 Exports 71,463 69,006 3.6 – Revenue for the period rose primarily on the back of higher product prices in line with Brent crude price gains, and increased volumes due to strong domestic demand, the company said on 19 July. – Fiscal Q1 overall earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin dropped to 8.3% from 11.5% in the same period of last year. – On a year-on-year basis, April-June domestic polymer and polyester demand increased by 8% and 5%, respectively. – RIL’s consolidated group profit after tax fell by 4% year on year to Rp175 billion ($2.09 billion) in April-June 2024. Polymers- Fiscal Q1 polymer margins were down by 0.5% to 16.9% year on year due to firm naphtha prices. Product margin over naphtha April-June 2024 ($/tonne) April-June 2023 ($/tonne) % Change Polyethylene (PE) 330 397 -16.9% Polypropylene (PP) 318 381 -16.5% Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 371 373 -0.5% Polyester – Paraxylene (PX) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) margins over naphtha decreased year on year due to higher naphtha prices. – “PTA [purified terephthalic acid] margins were impacted adversely due to high inventory with Chinese producers and increased competition,” the company said. – On a year-on-year basis, domestic polyester demand in fiscal Q1 increased by 5%, driven by strong growth in PET, which was up 27% due to “higher demand from the beverage segment on account of summer season and elections”. ($1 = Rs83.7)
UPDATE: Australia’s Woodside bets on Tellurian buy to expand global LNG portfolio
Seeks optimization opportunities Saudi Aramco also said interested in Tellurian Woodside has busy development plans SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Australian producer Woodside Energy said it would buy all outstanding shares of US LNG developer Tellurian and Driftwood LNG for approximately $900 million at $1.00 per share in an all-cash deal for a transaction valued at $1.2 billion, according to a 22 July news release . “It adds a scalable US LNG development opportunity to our existing approximately 10mtpa of equity LNG in Australia. Having a complementary US position would allow us to better serve customers globally and capture further marketing optimisation opportunities across both the Atlantic and Pacific Basins,” Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill said in the release. “The Driftwood LNG development opportunity is competitively advantaged. Woodside expects to leverage its global LNG expertise to unlock this fully permitted development and expand our relationship with Bechtel, which is the EPC contractor for both Driftwood LNG and our Pluto Train 2 project in Australia.” Tellurian’s board recommended shareholders approve the transaction and provided further details in a news release. As reported, ICIS noted that Tellurian was in play in late June, and  Woodside was said to be vying with Saudi Aramco for the project. Tellurian has struggled for years with the proposed 27.6mtpa Driftwood project, going through management and financial changes that included cancellation of LNG supply deals. But Driftwood, near Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a fully permitted, pre-final investment decision (FID) prospect, that includes Phase 1 (11mtpa) and Phase 2 (5.5mtpa). Woodside is likely targeting FID readiness for Phase 1 from the first quarter of 2025. O’Neill repeated to an investor briefing on 22 July that the transaction positions Woodside to be a “global LNG powerhouse”. The company aims to use a mix of offtake from Driftwood into its own marketing portfolio and retain tolling volumes while it works on selecting “high-quality partners” to scale up initial operations and eventually sell down its stake to around 50%, O’Neill told investors on a call. Sources said Saudi Aramco could be among possible investors. Woodside reports second quarter earnings on 23 July. BUSY WOODSIDE Last week, Woodside said that talks with Timor Leste (East Timor) on developing a “mutually beneficial and commercially viable “Greater Sunrise field has made progress with finer details to be unveiled in a concept Study being undertaken by Wood PL due “no later than the fourth quarter of this year.” The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and the Commonwealth of Australia, along with the Sunrise Joint Venture (comprising TimorGAP (56.56%), Woodside (33.44% and Operator), and Osaka Gas (10%)) are pleased to provide an update on Greater Sunrise negotiations. Offshore natural gas and condensate resources were first discovered in 1974, and located near a feed gas source to Australia at Bayu-Undan, which faces declining supply. Yet, the fields remain undeveloped as the stakeholders differ on the fiscal terms and the location of the downstream operations. According to a report released in May 2018 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the pipeline from the fields would either go to the existing 3.7mtpa Darwin LNG export project in Australia or to a greenfield 5mtpa Timor LNG project at Beaco on the south coast of Timor-Leste. The failure in reaching an agreement ended up having global portfolio major Shell and US supplier ConocoPhillips selling their shares to Timor Gas & Petroleo (Timor Gap) in late 2018. Timor Gap senior officials have expressed their determination regarding getting gas pumped to their island as it is “essential to Timor-Leste’s future economic growth and development”. In June, Woodside announced a revised leadership structure aiming for a simplified operating model to aggregate project execution, integrate traditional and new energy growth and opportunity, streamline corporate strategy activities, and establish a dedicated senior team for human resources, legal and external affairs. In May, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed a $1 billion loan agreement with a unit of Woodside that along with loans from private financial institutions raises $1.45 billion to assist Woodside in developing the Scarborough Energy Project , according to a statement from JBIC. The 8mtpa Scarborough energy project has targeted the first LNG cargo in 2026, according to Woodside. (Adds further O’Neill comments)
US Houston Ship Channel closes Friday on sunken tow vessel
HOUSTON (ICIS)–The US Coast Guard (USCG) closed the Houston Ship Channel Friday afternoon after a tow vessel sunk, according to a notice from Moran Shipping. It is unclear how long the channel will be closed as emergency responders are currently conducting search and rescue efforts, said JJ Plunkett of the Houston Pilots. The closure is at Light 122, near where the Lynchburg Ferry offers passage from La Porte to Baytown. Moran Shipping said efforts are underway to minimize pollution from fuel leakage and mitigate impact on channel traffic and that salvage operations could take at least 48 hours. The following image from shows many tankers (orange) and cargo vessels (yellow) in the channel. Source: Light 122 is on the right side of the image near the entrance to the channel.
SHIPPING: Global container rates edge higher, volumes shifting to West Coast ahead of tariffs
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Global shipping container rates edged slightly higher this week as they continue to moderate after more than doubling from early-May, and rates from Shanghai to the US West Coast fell, according to supply chain advisors Drewry. Drewry’s composite World Container Index (WCI) rose by just 1% and is up by just 1.2% over the past two week, as shown in the following chart. Average rates from China to the US East Coast have continued to rise and are nearing $10,000/FEU (40-foot equivalent unit), as shown in the following chart. Drewry expects ex-China rates to hold steady next week and remain high throughout the peak season. Rates from online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos showed similar rates of increase. Judah Levine, head of research at Freightos, in noting the slower rate of increase also pointed to signs that prices may have already peaked. “Daily rates so far this week are ticking lower and major carriers have not announced surcharge increases for later this month or August,” Levine said. Levine said peak season likely started early this year as retailers ordered early to beat possible labor issues at US Gulf and East Coast ports and as consumers continued to spend on goods. Emily Stausboll, senior shipping analyst at ocean and freight rate analytics firm Xeneta, said she is seeing some carriers already lowering spot rates. “This suggests a growing level of available capacity in the market and shippers can once again start to play carriers off against each other – instead of feeling they need to pay whatever price they are offered to secure space. As the balance of negotiating power starts to swing back towards shippers, we should see spot rates start to come back down,” Stausboll said. Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. VOLUMES SHIFT TO WEST COAST The Port of Los Angeles saw a 10% increase from the previous month and a slight increase year on year in volumes, Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles said. Some retailers are rushing to import volumes ahead of the US presidential election in November as Republican nominee Donald Trump has proposed hiking tariffs, especially on goods from China. But a persistently strong economy is also supporting the rise in imports. “The US economy continues to be the primary driver of our cargo volume and I expect to see that continue in the months ahead,” Seroka said. Many importers shifted their deliveries to the US East Coast in 2022 when congestion at West Coast ports surged amid strong consumer demand coming out of the pandemic. The shift in volumes from the East Coast has not led to any congestions at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California (MESC). “Vessels and cargo arriving, departing, and shifting around the ports of LA and LB and continue to move normally with no labor delays and ample labor,” MESC executive director Kip Louttit said. Louttit also said the forecast for arriving container ships over the next two weeks is trending higher. LIQUID CHEM TANKER RATES Rates for liquid chemical tankers ex-US Gulf were stable to softer this week, with decreases seen on the USG-Asia and USG-Brazil trade lanes. From the USG to Asia, there has still been interest in large cargoes, but volumes overall have been slowing down. The absence of market participants has caused freight rates to stumble some, with more downward pressure on smaller parcels due to the small pockets of space readily available. From the USG to Brazil, the list of ships open in the USG continues to grow, with space still available which could lead to continued downward pressure and even lower rates. Activity typically picks up during summer months, but this is not currently being seen. PANAMA CANAL The Panama Canal will limit transits from 3-4 August because of planned maintenance. The east lane of the Miraflores locks will be out of service for concrete maintenance on the east approach wall, the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) said. The PCA began limiting transits in July 2023 because of low water levels in Gatun Lake caused by an extended drought. Restrictions have gradually eased over the past few months and are approaching the average daily transits of 36-38/day seen prior to impacts from the drought. The improved conditions at the canal are likely to improve transit times for vessels traveling between the US Gulf and Asia, as well as between Europe and west coast Latin America countries. This should benefit chemical markets that move product between regions. Wait times for non-booked southbound vessels ready for transit have been relatively steady at less than two days, according to the PCA vessel tracker. Wait times were less than a day for northbound vessels and less than two days for southbound traffic. Focus article by Adam Yanelli With additional reporting by Kevin Callahan Visit the ICIS Logistics – impact on chemicals and energy topic page.
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