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BLOG: China 2022 PE demand: Latest data point towards a 2%
      contraction as confusion over outlook builds
BLOG: China 2022 PE demand: Latest data point towards a 2% contraction as confusion over outlook builds
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson. The China Beige Book, the independent economic analysis service, has found that: China services and manufacturing businesses saw a slowdown in the second quarter from the first quarter, reflecting the prolonged impact of COVID controls. · Orders for domestic consumption and overseas export mostly fell during Q2. Orders for textiles and chemicals processing were among the worst affected. This is in line with what our contacts have been saying and what the ICIS polyolefins data appears to be indicating. Based on the January-May numbers 2022, the outlook for full year polypropylene (PP)) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) demand seems to have deteriorated. We worry that China’s options for turning its economy around in 2022 are narrowing. At least in low-density PE (LDPE),  as we discuss in, the outlook hasn’t got any worse. This is small consolation, as it had already become bleak before May. Our latest worst-case scenario is that LDPE demand may decline by 8% this year. LDPE stands out from the other grades of polyolefins because China CFR LDPE price spreads over CFR Japan naphtha costs have held up very well this year. In PP, HDPE and linear-low density PE (LLDPE), spreads have hit record lows. Why LDPE appears to be different is because supply has been reduced, thereby keeping prices relatively high, because ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)/LDPE swing plants have swung to more EVA production as EVA demand seems to be booming. The EVA price premiums over LDPE are at or close-to record highs, depending on the ICIS price assessment. And LDPE film price premiums over C4 LLDPE film have also reached record highs in China in 2022. The two resins compete for many of the same end-use markets. LLDPE supply is much longer. So, it is not just the economy that LDPE players in China have to worry about, but these other dynamics as well. This may be the third year in a row of negative LDPE demand growth in China because of these other factors – and now an economy that could see a recession. Meanwhile, as with the other grades of polyolefins, LDPE exporters to China need to be also concerned about a potential significant fall in China’s LDPE imports. Our worst-case scenario sees China’s net imports in 2022 some 500,000 tonnes lower than in 2021. We are sorry it is so gloomy, and, hopefully, conditions will pick up. But hope is not a strategy. The chemicals industry industry needs to prepare for worst-case outcomes. 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.
Caixin China June manufacturing PMI rises to 51.7
Caixin China June manufacturing PMI rises to 51.7
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Caixin’s China manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 51.7 in June from 48.1 in May as factory activity recovered on the back of easing regional COVID-19 lockdowns, the Chinese media firm said on Friday. A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing economy, while a lower number denotes contraction. The June reading was the first expansion in fourth months and marked the strongest rate of increase seen since May last year, Caixin said in a statement. Chinese manufacturers registered the first expansion of output since February at the end of the second quarter. The rate of growth was the quickest seen since November 2020, with a number of firms linking the rise to the return to more normal operations and reopening of production lines as COVID-19 restrictions were eased. Total new orders likewise returned to growth in June, though the rate of increase was only modest. New export business also rose modestly. “Covid lockdowns and other restrictions eased in June, facilitating a gradual recovery in manufacturers’ operations. Supply and demand were on the rise, with supply improving more,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group. “Restoration in the post-pandemic era remained the focus of the current economy, yet its base was far from strong. Deteriorating household income and expectations caused by a weak labor market dampened the demand recovery,” Wang added. China’s official manufacturing PMI released on 30 June also showed expansion at 50.2 in June. The Caixin PMI mostly tracks smaller and private firms while the official PMI covers larger, state-owned companies.
US meteorologists monitoring tropical disturbances in US
      Gulf, western Atlantic
US meteorologists monitoring tropical disturbances in US Gulf, western Atlantic
HOUSTON (ICIS)–The National Weather Service is tracking three disturbances in the US Gulf and western Atlantic, one of which could bring large amounts of rainfall to the Houston area over the next two days. Source: National Hurricane Center (NHC) Disturbance No 1 is generating showers and thunderstorms near the south Texas coast and is forecast to move slowly northward and inland, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Slow development of the system remains possible as it is still over water, meaning there remains a chance it could strengthen into a named storm. “Regardless of development, heavy rain is possible along portions of the Texas coast for the next two days,” the NHC said. A flash flood watch is in effect for southeast Texas, including the greater Houston area, which is home to several chemical plants, refineries and terminals that export oil, fuel, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as ethane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The Office of Emergency Management of Deer Park, Texas, said the watch is in effect through Friday night. Disturbance No 2 is located several hundred miles east of the Windward Islands and is producing disorganised showers and thunderstorms. The NHC only gives a 10% chance of this disturbance becoming a hurricane in the next five days. The third disturbance, referred to by the NHC as potential tropical cyclone No 2, is likely to generate heavy rainfall across Colombia today before moving west across Nicaragua and Costa Rica by Friday. Areas of life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides are expected. Hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua late on Friday. There is limited chemical production in the region, according to the ICIS Supply and Demand Database, with some caustic soda and chlorine produced in Costa Rica. The Gulf of Mexico hosts several offshore oil wells, accounting for 15% of the nation’s crude production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and federal offshore natural gas production in the Gulf accounts for 5% of total US dry production. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from 1 June to 30 November.
TFI praises Congress leadership for efforts to address
      railroad service issues
TFI praises Congress leadership for efforts to address railroad service issues
HOUSTON (ICIS)–The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) said it was praising the bipartisan leadership efforts of Congressmen Ralph Norman and Jim Costa for their work in organising a letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) regarding poor rail service. The trade group, which representing the domestic fertilizer industry, said ongoing failures by the railroad companies are having a negative impact on the industry and their movement of vital products, which as a result is have consequences for the overall agricultural sector. “With over half of all fertilizer moving by rail, we are grateful for the leadership of Congressmen Norman and Costa in bringing the issue of inconsistent rail service to the attention of the STB,” said Corey Rosenbusch, TFI President and CEO. “Their dedication to working with all stakeholders will help ensure that essential crop nutrient inputs reach farmers when and where they need them.” TFI said fertilizer shipments rely heavily on rail to reach farmers, but imposed restrictions, along with skeleton crews and railroad-led initiatives such as precision-scheduled railroading have forced fertilizer shipping reductions and potential production delays. “Fertilizer is attributable to half of all crop yields. With the world leaning on US farmers now more than ever before to feed our growing population, we must ensure strong yields and our food security,” Rosenbusch said. “Fertilizer must reach farmers in a timely manner and crop harvests also need to get to their destinations, including the kitchen table.” The letter to the STB was signed by 51 members of Congress and it noted that during the late April STB hearing on rail service a variety of industries, including grain and feed and fertilizer producers, reported severe service problems with most of the Class I rail carriers. It highlighted that TFI had said recent service problems, and imposed restrictions have forced shipping reductions and potential production delays. This not only can restrict supply but can raise costs on the farmers who rely on this necessary input for 50% of their crop yields. Warning about future and further consequences, the STB was told that by placing onerous restrictions on shippers without consulting customers that railroads may “run the risk of jeopardising family farms and increasing the cost of food for consumers.” The letter closed by stressing to the STB that “rail service must be improved, and we appreciate the STB’s attention to this matter. While we respect the challenges of operating a major railroad, communication is essential when taking steps to make the necessary improvements, including the imposition of service curtailments.” “As we work toward solutions to meet the ongoing supply chain challenges, carriers and the STB should also be mindful of essential commodities and our country’s best public interest.”
US Koch completes acquisition of 50% stake in JFC III from
US Koch completes acquisition of 50% stake in JFC III from OCP
HOUSTON (ICIS)–US Koch Ag & Energy Solutions (KAES) announced it has successfully completed the acquisition of a 50% interest in Jorf Fertilizers Company III (JFC III) from fertilizer producer OCP thereby establishing a 50/50 joint venture between the two companies. JFC III owns and operates an industrial facility producing up to 1.1m tonnes/year of phosphate-based fertilizers. Koch said that through its advantaged location within the Jorf Fertilizer Complex, the world’s largest phosphate fertilizer production platform, JFC III benefits from a unique relationship with OCP’s broader industrial operations at the complex. “Our long-term partnership with Koch is reaching a new stage through the establishment of our Moroccan-based joint venture, which confirms our common goal to provide farmers with high quality and reliable Moroccan phosphate fertilizers,” said Mostafa Terrab, OCP Group Chairman and CEO. Koch said the acquisition marks Koch’s first substantial investment on the African continent. “KAES and OCP have a long-standing relationship, and we are excited to continue growing our relationship as we work together to secure JFC III’s long-term success,” said Mark Luetters, Koch Ag & Energy Solutions president.
PODCAST: Global base oils challenges continue for H2 2022,
      post-WBO insights
PODCAST: Global base oils challenges continue for H2 2022, post-WBO insights
LONDON (ICIS)–ICIS editors Eashani Chavda, Matthew Chong and Amanda Hay discuss their latest market insights with ICIS analyst Mike Connolly after an eventful World Base Oils and Lubricants Conference. Key topics discussed include: Asian arbitrage, record prices in Europe, the US hurricane season, refinery margins and sustainability.
VIDEO: Europe R-PET sees some signs of stability emerge
VIDEO: Europe R-PET sees some signs of stability emerge
LONDON (ICIS)–Senior Editor for Recycling, Matt Tudball, discusses the latest developments in the European recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) market, including: Some signs of stability creeping into regional markets Flake buyers see shift in sellers’ attitudes for July Hot weather, more tourism will help bottle supply
VIDEO: European power outlook for Q3 '22
VIDEO: European power outlook for Q3 ’22
LONDON (ICIS)— The ICIS Power team presents the key drivers for Q3 ‘22 in the main electricity markets in Europe. (All graphs in the video are linked below) ICIS TTF front month likely to remain at new highs during Q3 ’22 Germany German 2022 power load falls to well below the norm German gas storages filling up fast UK UK becomes net power exporter from May NBP expected to retain a significant discount to TTF through the third quarter France Projected nuclear availability in Q3 will gradually rise French run-of-river hydropower generation stays below 2017-2021 average Italy Italian reservoir stocks remain below norms Italian gas plants poised for high margins in Q3 ’22 CEE/SEE Romanian and Serbian hydro stocks below 2021 levels Hungarian Q3 ’22 premium over Germany starts to widen Iberia Gas-for-power up year on year as hydro, wind outputs drop Iberian spot power prices remain high year on year
INTERVIEW: Univar Solutions aims to provide carbon footprints
      for distributed products - exec
INTERVIEW: Univar Solutions aims to provide carbon footprints for distributed products – exec
NEW YORK (ICIS)–US-based chemicals distributor Univar Solutions is working towards providing carbon footprints for the products it distributes to provide transparency to customers and enable them to meet sustainability goals, an executive said. “Ultimately, we need to meet our customers’ needs, so as we move forward it will be a mixed method approach of working with suppliers to get the most accurate data possible… but also looking at specific product families and product groups where that data is not currently available,” said Liam McCarroll, director of sustainability at Univar Solutions, in an interview with ICIS. “The conversations are not the same across every industry or with every supplier, but we certainly see much more information than even 24 months ago,” he added. The carbon footprints of the products Univar sources and distributes are not only part of its own Scope 3 emissions but part of its customers’ Scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are those that come directly from operations, Scope 2 from energy purchased and Scope 3 from purchased raw materials, logistics upstream and downstream, waste management and other factors throughout the value chain. MAPPING OUT SCOPE 3 EMISSIONSUnivar has mapped out Scope 3 emissions for its entire supply chain for the very first time, with results disclosed in its 2021 ESG report released in June 2022. Of its 10.1m tonnes of CO2 equivalent Scope 3 emissions in 2021, 9.9m tonnes, or 98%, came from purchased goods and services, using a life cycle analysis approach. For Univar to reduce its Scope 3 emissions, collaborating with suppliers will be key. “I don’t think there’s any getting away from the fact that with 98% coming from products, it will be largely working with the supply chain, much in the way we do with our Supplier Code of Conduct,” said McCarroll. Univar Solutions’ Supplier Code of Conduct stipulates that suppliers “actively pursue reduction of direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with recognised standards”, among a number of other requirements. Univar itself aims to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 20% by 2025, 40% by 2030 and achieve net zero direct emissions by 2050. While no target for Scope 3 emissions has been announced, it is clearly an area of focus. “[Scope 3] is an exciting area. As that 98% [from products] comes down, the rest of our Scope 3 will of course become more relevant. So we will take a portfolio approach, working with other service providers and looking at our waste and resource use because that all plays back into our Scope 3 emissions,” said McCarroll. DEALING WITH INCOMPLETE DATAThe product carbon footprint side of Scope 3 presents a big challenge as there is often incomplete data as well as data from different methodologies. “We always prefer primary data… but it’s also about recognising that not all primary data is created the same. We should also be aiming for transparency – understanding methodologies and really working with suppliers and customers to support that transparency,” said McCarroll. “It’s important to them, as well as important to us. It’s not just about the number – it’s about how that number is achieved,” he added. Univar will work with suppliers to put forward products that contribute to more sustainable solutions, he noted. PART OF A HOLSITIC APPROACHReducing Scope 3 emissions and helping customers do the same is part of a holistic approach to sustainability. “Carbon footprint is very important, but we also want to ensure that we are leveraging our portfolio of existing products, services and practices to support our customers’ sustainability journeys, and sustainability is more than just carbon footprinting,” said McCarroll. “By understanding this product framework, we’re helping specific areas of that customer’s journey. For some customers and suppliers, their priorities differ. We want to be a distributor that is capable and ready to help them on their journey because not everyone’s looks quite the same,” he added. While Univar is not offering carbon footprints for all the products it distributes, as not every supplier provides that information, it is sharing select data with customers and working towards a standardised approach. “We have multiple engagements and projects with different customers where we are supplying data but right now it’s part of what we are building out… It’s not part of our standardised offering but what we’re moving towards,” said McCarroll. Credibility, reliability and transparency of data on carbon footprints is critical. “One of the most important things is making sure that it’s aligned with a methodology – not just an organisation saying, ‘here’s a number and we don’t want to back it up’,” said McCarroll. “If we want to bring people on the journey with us, it has to be credible and reliable but there are multiple methods in calculating product carbon footprints. Not all of them will get you the same answer but broadly will take you in the right direction,” he added. While Univar is not stipulating which particular methodologies should be used, they should be transparent and credible. “[We want to] make that information as clear and useful as possible to the customer because ultimately, we will use it in our emissions reporting but also want to make sure it doesn’t end there – that we’re able to support the full supply chain,” said McCarroll. TAKING EMISSIONS OUT OF TRANSPORTATIONAside from purchased materials or products, another important part of Scope 3 emissions is in transportation. On this front, Univar aims to transition its light and heavy fleet of vehicles over time. “We’re aiming to transition a very significant portion of our light fleet… by 2025, increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs),” said McCarroll. Its light fleet includes passenger vehicles for employees, as well as some pickup trucks used for deliveries. The heavy fleet is comprised of trucks used to distribute most of its products. “Diesel will remain a significant part of [the heavy fleet] but we can do much more with it, so we’re looking at telematics, driving behaviours, eco-training and more streamlined trailers. We also have in the US a number of heavy duty EVs that we’ll be looking to introduce towards the end of this year,” said McCarroll. In May, Univar saw its first electric truck – the Nikola Tre – roll off Nikola’s assembly line. And in June, Univar successfully completed its pilot programme with the truck along with Nikola’s mobile charging trailer. That truck is now part of Univar’s fleet. “The initial trail worked well. The drivers were very responsive and as excited about it as we were,” said McCarroll, who also noted that Univar is exploring options with other electric truck manufacturers. Univar is also looking towards compressed natural gas, biodiesel, fuel additives and hydrogen fuel cells for its heavy fleet. Interview article by Joseph Chang
INSIGHT: West Coast US port, dockworkers to miss deadline for
      labour contract
INSIGHT: West Coast US port, dockworkers to miss deadline for labour contract
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Ports and dockworkers on the western coast of the US said they will miss a 1 July deadline to sign a labour agreement, leaving chemical companies at risk for more supply chain problems. Ports, workers will maintain operations as talks continue. Both sides say they are committed to reaching deal. Port disruptions characterised past talks. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) will negotiate on behalf of shippers, and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) will represent dockworkers. The union represents 22,000 workers at 29 western coast ports from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California. The two sides acknowledged that they are unlikely to reach an agreement before the current labour contract expires on 1 July. In a joint statement, both groups said they are not preparing for a strike or lockdown. They stressed their commitment to reaching  an agreement. Still, the concern is that talks could break down. Past contract negotiations have been contentious and included disruptions at ports. Previous labour disputes at the ports have cost the US economy $1bn-2bn/day, according to a letter to the US president’s office from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and several other trade groups. This time, the cost could be higher because supply chains are already strained. “Even a relatively short port slowdown or shutdown could compound inflationary pressure and cause long-lasting damage to consumer confidence and American businesses,” the letter said. The two sides have provisions in place that allow them to continue operations while negotiations continue, said Eric Byer, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). CONSEQUENCES OF DISRUPTIONSUS chemical companies rely on western coast ports to receive imports of specialty chemicals. The San Pedro Bay complex, made up of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, accounts for 25% of US exports and 40% of containerised imports, according to Freightwaves, a trade publication. For a lot of small businesses, San Pedro is the prime location for their products to arrive, Byer said. Either the ports or the dockworkers could disrupt port operations. Dockworkers could purposely work slowly or call a strike. Ports could lock out dockworkers, which would prevent them from doing their jobs at the ports. The consequences of such disruptions would trickle down through the supply chains and cause knock-on effects. Work disruptions could worsen the pile-up of containers at western coast ports, said Scott Jensen, ACC spokesman. Chemical companies could divert shipments through the Panama Canal and to ports along the Gulf Coast and the eastern coast. Ideally, Byer said shipments would arrive at ports in Houston or New Orleans, Louisiana, home to the nation’s petrochemical and refining hubs. However, both are vulnerable to restrictions and shutdowns caused by tropical weather. Hurricane season started on 1 June, and meteorologists are predicting an active season. Also many ports are already stretched and may have little spare capacity, said Scott Jensen, a spokesman with the ACC. Companies may have to ship their products farther away to ports in Miami, Florida and up the East Coast – to Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Morehead City, North Carolina; or even the mid-Atlantic, Byer said. These more distant destinations will add weeks to delivery times. Trucks and rail can only do so much to address any problems caused by port disruptions. Trucking has struggled with a chronic shortage of drivers, a problem made worse by the coronavirus. Railroads have had acute service problems. Earlier in April, the railroad companies Union Pacific (UP) and BNSF asked their customers to reduce volumes over the coming days The restrictions led INEOS Olefins and Polymers USA to declare a force majeure on polymer products. THINGS ARE ALREADY BADSupply chains already have many problems. Delivery times for containers from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago are now 90 days interior point intermodal (IPI), said Lynn Stacy, managing director of the bulk liquid division of the logistics firm OEC Group. Before the pandemic, it used to take two to three weeks, Stacy said. Because it is taking so long for containers to reach Chicago by rail, ocean carriers are now terminating the boxes at the port of discharge, leaving it up to the receivers to figure out how to get them to their next destinations, Stacy said. In addition, companies are having a hard time finding chassis, isotanks and containers, all of which are critical equipment for keeping supply chains humming, Stacy said. For chassis, it is taking three times as long to obtain one as before the coronavirus pandemic. Much of this critical equipment is manufactured in China, where there are 18-month lead times to build new ones, he said. The ACC highlighted the problems and delays faced by chemical companies in a survey it conducted in March, which was a follow-up to one it did in November and December. The findings include the following: Port delays last 4-6 weeks. Shipments on inland waterways take an average of six days longer. Because of rail rates and service problems, 75% of companies switched to truck deliveries. Nearly all companies are paying higher truck rates and 63% have longer transit times. The ACC and the other trade groups did point to some long-standing problems that a new labour contract could address. Their letter noted that the World Bank’s 2020 Global Container Port Productivity Index included only four US ports in the top 100. None ranked in the top 50. The two sides could take some steps that could upgrade port infrastructure, adopt automation and prepare skilled workers for advanced jobs, the letter said. These steps could improve operations and US ports and help them move up the World Bank’s ranking. By Al Greenwood Thumbnail shows containers. Image by Shutterstock. 
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