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The global LNG market is becoming more complex and difficult to predict as we continue to see an increase in production, the number of buyers and growing pressure on shippers. We believe that in order to respond quickly, a robust and unique combination of deep data sets and intuitive analytics are required. ICIS’ LNG and gas portfolios provide daily data-driven insight and expert analysis, designed to give you a complete perspective of historic, current and future market conditions.

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Latest news

VIDEO: Asia benzene rebounds; volatile SM may extend into 2022

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Watch pricing editors Angeline Soh and Trixie Yap discuss current developments and outlook for Asia’s benzene and styrene monomer (SM) markets. Benzene tracks crude gains; some ‘22 SE Asia term tenders awarded at higher price SM on general downtrend since Nov; more China exports likely Low run rates at regional SM plants to continue on squeezed margins Visit the ICIS Coronavirus topic page for analysis of the impact on chemical markets and links to latest news.

08-Dec-2021

Japan Q3 GDP shrinks more than expected on weak consumption, exports

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Japan’s economy shrank at a steeper annualized rate of 3.6% in the third quarter due to weaker-than-expected consumption and net exports amid heightened pandemic-related restrictions. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the contraction was revised to 0.9% from the initial estimate of 0.8%, data from Japan’s Cabinet Office showed on Wednesday. “The revision reflects slight downgrades to private consumption and net exports, which is largely offset by a modest upgrade to business investment,” said Norihiro Yamaguchi, senior economist at research firm Oxford Economics, in a note. The world’s third-biggest economy slipped back into contraction mode in the September quarter, when most of the country was under a state of emergency amid a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant at the time. “With supply chain disruptions easing in the auto sector, production and exports are also projected to recover, albeit at a moderate pace,” Yamaguchi said. A normalization in auto production, a recovery in consumption as well as low COVID-19 cases should fuel growth in the fourth quarter, the economist said. “However, the Omicron variant poses a new downside risk in the near term,” Yamaguchi said. Japan closed its borders completely to foreigners in late November, to prevent Omicron, which is deemed more highly contagious than the Delta variant of the coronavirus, from spreading in the country.

08-Dec-2021

GPCA ’21: GPCA 2022 to be held in Riyadh

DUBAI (ICIS)–The 16th annual forum of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 6-8 December 2022, the organisation said on Wednesday. GPCA’s annual forum is the main networking event of the petrochemicals industry in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. In its 14th edition in 2019, the event gathered just over 2,000 registered delegates; many more attend on the sidelines to network, analyse the industry, and close business deals. GPCA is yet to disclose the number of registered delegates in the 2021 edition, the first since the pandemic hit. The 2020 forum was cancelled due to travel restrictions around the world. SAUDI OPENING UPDubai has in several occasions been the location for the GPCA annual forum. However, the Saudi Prince Heir Mohammad Bin Salman’s willingness to diversify his country’s economy away from crude oil and into more downstream industries has meant the country is gradually opening up to global investors. Holding GPCA in Riyadh would fall into those plans. SABIC, the country’s petrochemicals major, is a key player within GPCA. Earlier on Wednesday, SABIC’s CEO delivered the forum’s opening remarks. Saudi Arabia remains, however, a monarchy where control is tightly held by the Royal Family.

08-Dec-2021

GPCA '21: Chemicals must navigate ‘tension’ between declining oil and robust downstream – GPCA chairman

DUBAI (ICIS)–Chemicals are currently caught up between the declining oil and gas industries and thriving downstream, consumers sectors still requiring the products manufactured by petrochemicals plants, the chairman of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said on Wednesday. Yousef Al-Benyan, who is also the CEO at Saudi petrochemicals major SABIC, added that after two years of COVID-19 pandemic and expansion plans postponed, it was time again to press the accelerator, but this could only be done in a more sustainable way. “Chemicals companies’ 2021 earnings outlook is promising again. It’s time to release the brake and accelerate. But a tension is building – utilities companies across the world anticipate growth below global GDP growth, while consumers industries forecast growth above GDP,” said the GPCA chairman. “This tension between upstream and downstream will have to rely on the competitiveness of chemicals companies, and the companies unable to navigate that tension will disappear in coming decades.” Al-Benyan was delivering his opening speech at the GPCA’s annual forum. PRESSURE TO DECARBONISE SET TO GROWThe GPCA chairman said the two years of pandemic have shown digitalisation could also help chemicals companies, which have been able to navigate the uncertainty remarkably well. In another session at GPCA on Tuesday, a panel of experts said that the chemicals industry is yet to take full advantage of digitalisation and the way it could improve their operations. The GPCA chairman on Wednesday added that the good work done during the pandemic in terms of digitalisation should not make the industry rest in its laurels, however. “Let’s take pride in the way we implemented digital tools during the pandemic. However, bigger challenges for our industry [remain]: climate change hasn’t gone away, and, in fact, it poses a huge challenge for the world … The pressure to decarbonise the global economy is growing,” he said. “Around 80% of the world’s GDP is generated in countries that have pledged to go carbon neutrality. There is a clear policy direction and capital allocation and, therefore, there is an attractive [approach] for decarbonisation for oil and gas upstream companies.” Al-Benyan said that the chemicals industry has already been decarbonising for more than two decades but added that more should be done. Better technologies would be needed to “galvanise our assets”, said the GPCA chairman, to make the chemicals industry operations more efficient and reliable, because there is a clamorous demand from those who use its products in downstream industries. “Our customers are insisting on more sustainability in our business and in everything we do. Banks and other lenders [are also questioning] how we are managing our sustainability. On top of this, there are global macroeconomic challenges, which will affect the global supply chain and encourage more protectionism,” said Al-Benyan. “The energy transition’s timeline has been shortened, and the result of that acceleration puts much more pressure on us [chemicals industry]. But I am confident that, in these uncertain and challenging times, industry leaders will re-shape their value chain. We have been talking about transforming the industry for several years: this is the time.” The GPCA 15th annual forum runs in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 7-9 December. Front page picture: GPCA’s chairman delivering the annual forum’s opening remarks Source: GPCA

08-Dec-2021

BLOG: China could become a PP net exporter next year

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson. Wow! China may become a net exporter of 600,000 tonnes of polypropylene (PP) in 2022 from net imports of 6.1m tonnes in 2020. Positive Chinese PP demand growth in 2021-2022 seems likely, unlike in polyethylene (PE) where this year is shaping up to be a year of negative growth. But PP growth is moderating on the Common Prosperity policy pivot. A far bigger deal is the possibility that China will become a net exporter in 2022, a year earlier than we had expected. This would be result of the slightly moderating demand growth, more availability of local feedstock to run plants hard and a further 11% increase capacity in 2022 following a 13% rise this year. When you consider that in 2020, ICIS estimates that China accounted for 43% of global net imports amongst the countries and regions that imported more than they exported, this is a massive deal. The major exporters to China – South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the UAE and Singapore etc. – could be in a very challenging position. 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.

08-Dec-2021

Verbio North America starts up Iowa renewable natgas, ethanol plant

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Verbio North America started the first phase of its industrial scale renewable natural gas (RNG) facility in Nevada, Iowa, two and a half years after its parent company, Germany-based Verbio AG, bought the plant from DuPont, the company said on Tuesday. DuPont produced cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale at the plant, but Verbio converted it into a unit that makes RNG and ethanol. Phase I of the project, at a cost of $35m, will produce RNG using anerobic digestion technology. Feedstock comes from baled crop residue procured within a 50- to 75-mile radius from the plant, procured by Verbio Agriculture, which was formed in 2020 primarily to secure feedstock for the plant. Verbio Agriculture will secure 75,000-100,000 tons/year (68,039-90,718 tonnes/year) of corn stover during the first phase of operations and will evaluate procurement of other types of cellulosic materials, including immature cover crops, over the long term. Corn stover is the inedible parts of corn that are left over after harvest. The RNG will be upgraded to meet pipeline natural gas standards and then be injected into an onsite natural gas distribution pipeline for eventual use as compressed natural gas (CNG) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for vehicle fuel. “Our biorefinery facility is now injecting pipeline quality natural gas into Alliant Energy’s gas distribution system for sale, nationally, to CNG and LNG transportation customers,” said Verbio Nevada Refinery president and general manager Greg Faith. Phase II of the project will use corn to produce ethanol using traditional methods. The company said that the site already had the infrastructure in place for ethanol production, and that it will invest in additional fermentation tanks and the equipment necessary to produce ethanol, RNG, corn oil, nitrogen fertilizer and other value-added biproducts. Primary feedstocks would be 20m bushels/year of corn, to be procured locally, the company said. Construction will include a corn unloading facility and silo storage. The CEO of the parent company, Claus Sauter, said in September during an outlook that it plans to increase its biomethane capacity in the US, using the Nevada plant site. Additional reporting by Stefan Baumgarten and Al Greenwood

08-Dec-2021

Chemical industry poised for growth in 2022 as consumer demand strengthens – ACC

HOUSTON (ICIS)–US chemical production expanded in 2021, as the post-lockdown spending surge boosted demand for chemicals and other goods and materials despite the headwinds from winter storm Uri and Hurricane Ida, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in its year-end chemical outlook. In 2022, the US chemical industry is in a strong position for growth as consumer demand strengthens and restocking drives expansion. US GDP is expected to grow by 4.4% in 2022. In 2021, US GDP grew 5.6%, reversing a 3.4% decline in 2020. US industrial production will grow by 4.0% in 2022, after industrial production rose 5.5% in 2021, driven by a rebound in demand for goods. “While risks for the global economy remain, the U.S. chemical industry is in a strong position going into 2022,” said Martha Moore, ACC chief economist and author of the outlook. Source: ACC LIGHT VEHICLES US vehicle sales rose to 15.3m in 2021, compared with 17.0m in 2019 and 14.5m in 2020. US vehicle sales are forecasted to be 16m in 2022. Global vehicle production plummeted in 2020 because of lockdowns and a slowdown in production due to a shortage of semiconductors. HOUSING STARTS Housing starts rose during the pandemic due to historically low mortgage rates and the rise of remote work during the pandemic. Housing starts grew to 1.58m in 2021, the highest since 2006. Forecasts predict housing starts to ease to 1.56m for both 2022 and 2023. TRADE OUTLOOK US imports and exports of chemicals have rebounded strongly in 2021, despite ongoing supply chain and logistic challenges. Exports rose to $151bn in 2021, imports grew to $127bn, resulting in a trade surplus of $24bn. Exports will rise 7.3% in 2022 to $162bn, imports will grow 7.1% to $136bn, resulting in a trade surplus of $26bn. By 2025 US exports will reach $182bn, according to the outlook. Thumbnail shows money. Image by Shutterstock

08-Dec-2021

Russia's Novatek and Germany's RWE sign blue ammonia and LNG MoU

LONDON (ICIS)–Russian gas supplier Novatek and Germany’s RWE Supply & Trading on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for mutual co-operation in the field of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply and decarbonisation. The MoU envisages the supply by Novatek to RWE of low-carbon ammonia and hydrogen (blue ammonia/hydrogen) from the former’s planned Obskiy gas chemical complex project, for delivery to German and European markets. The pair will also look to deepen their co-operation in supply of LNG – including carbon-neutral LNG – through the expansion of existing spot supplies, as well as possible long-term supplies of LNG to be produced by the Arctic LNG 2 and other Novatek projects. “We are very well positioned to benefit from the transition of global economies to low-carbon energy sources,” said Lev Feodosyev, first deputy chairman of Novatek. “Natural gas, including LNG, is already replacing other types of fuels with a higher carbon footprint, and we are working on decreasing the already low-carbon footprint of LNG produced by our projects in the Russian Arctic. “Now, we are undertaking the preliminary front end engineering design (pre-FEED) study for the blue ammonia and hydrogen plant with CCS [carbon capture and storage] facilities nearby our LNG cluster in Yamal for the delivery to final customers of low-carbon products in Europe and Asia.”

08-Dec-2021

PODCAST: As China moves to PP self-sufficiency, expect scramble for global market share

BARCELONA (ICIS)–China may become self-sufficient in polypropylene (PP) from 2022, raising the prospect of a scramble for market share globally and a possible price war. China will become self-sufficient in PP from 2022 China PP demand will grow by 3% in 2022, capacity by 11% For 2020, China had net PP imports of 6.1m tonnes As China becomes exporter, expect battle for market share, possible price war International Energy Agency report shows Europe, China driving surge in renewable power Renewables will form 95% of new electricity additions from now until 2026 By 2026 renewables will equal fossil fuel for power generation Transition from world scale to local chemical production will be a huge challenge In this Think Tank podcast, Will Beacham interviews ICIS Insight Editor Nigel Davis, ICIS Senior Consultant Asia John Richardson and Paul Hodges, chairman of New Normal Consulting. Editor’s note: This podcast is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the presenter and interviewees, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. ICIS is organising regular updates to help the industry understand current market trends. Register here . Read the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business. Read Paul Hodges and John Richardson's ICIS blogs.

08-Dec-2021

November IPEX down 2% on falling northeast Asia and US prices

LONDON (ICIS)–The ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) dropped by 2% month on month in November, tracking price declines in northeast Asia and US petrochemicals and plastics markets and despite mild rises in Europe. Northwest Europe posted the only increase, driven by rises in styrene, toluene and ethylene. Butadiene was the only petrochemical where prices were down in November in Europe. The index for northeast Asia posted the largest decline, with some commodities such as methanol declining by up to 22% month on month. Every petrochemical in the region fell with the exception PVC, which posted an increase in pricing of 1.6%. US Gulf values also fell in November, although the list of winners and losers was more mixed than in Asia.  Methanol, styrene, toluene and benzene prices rose by more than 5% compared with August, while butadiene, propylene, polypropylene, ethylene and polyethylene values dropped. The Global IPEX index has risen by 34% year on year. The monthly IPEX indices provide a snapshot of the petrochemicals and plastics markets in the three major producing and consuming regions, as well as globally. The IPEX table and charts below are 'live' and update on a regular basis. The latest price increases are shown and values of the regional and global IPEXes. Price changes for the commodities used to create the IPEX can be captured by users on the price table allowing comparisons to be made on a flexible monthly basis. Likewise, IPEX values can be captured by clicking into the chart and downloading current and historical data using the 'download' button and selecting an option. The ICIS petrochemical index tracks the movement of prices for the 12 major petrochemicals and polymers: ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, paraxylene (PX), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), styrene, polystyrene (PS), methanol and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with the regional indexes weighted by capacity. The IPEX values are related to a January 2000 base of 100. IPEX values are subject to change retrospectively as monthly contract prices are settled.

08-Dec-2021

GPCA '21: Petchems electrification a reality but hydrocarbons to remain king – SABIC

DUBAI (ICIS)–Petrochemical producers’ electrification to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be a reality in a few decades but hydrocarbons will remain the key feedstock as bio-based alternatives are neither available nor sustainable, an executive at SABIC said on Tuesday. Bob Maughon, chief technology officer at the Saudi petrochemicals major, added that the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, key to lowering the carbon footprint in the petrochemicals sector, only makes sense at a large scale, a reason why implementation so far has been poor. The conundrum, added Maughon, is the required speed to implement those changes and how far companies can go in implementing technologies that require “massive” investments, ultimately denting producers’ profitability. Speaking to ICIS on the sidelines of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) annual forum, the executive added that SABIC is committed to bringing in solutions to the unsolved problem of plastic waste, which remains a to-do target for an industry the products of which mostly end up being burnt, placed in landfills or disposed on land or at sea. CCS: NEVER TOO LATE? CCS technologies enable GHG emissions to be captured, including carbon dioxide (CO2), which is causing global warming. The Paris Agreement signed in 2015 aimed to limit global warming to an increase of 1.5°C by 2100, compared with pre-industrial levels. Maughon said the uptake of CCS technologies has so far been poor in most energy-intensive sectors, including petrochemicals, because costs are too high and the value chain is not ready to absorb those costs. “The wrong solution is to put small CCS in every [petrochemicals] production unit; that’s not a very effective way to manage that. You need large-scale geological capacity to bring the cost down. Now we see a momentum in the market due to the concerns over carbon emissions, and we are also now getting a clear regulatory picture on what the cost of carbon is going to be,” said Maughon. “Those are the things needed to capitalise on that investment. At the ned of the day, you are investing to store the CO2, so you know you are going to end up with higher costs. CCS is going to be a key piece of the equation [to lower emissions] but there was a lack of regulatory clarity of the carbon cost impact [for companies].” Carbon pricing is set to be one of the key tools for governments around the world to lower the impact of global warming; by charging for carbon emissions, it is expected that energy-intensive, polluting companies will overhaul their operations trying to reduce the impact of those costs. “You can’t get people to invest without understanding those [carbon cost] implications,” added Maughon. ELECTRIFYING PETROCHEMICALS Maughon said SABIC is committed to speeding up investments in renewable energies so its petrochemicals operations can source clean energy, although the devil would be, as always, in the detail. The executive added, however, that as industries race to electrify, there will be fierce competition to access the available renewable energy, still a small part in the energy mix that depends on fossil fuels – including coal, the most polluting of all, as well as oil and gas – for electricity generation. “There is going to be competition [by companies] over the access to renewable energy. You can solve many problems by adding renewable energy capacity, but if you do it in a way that is less efficient that is not the right thing for society,” he said. “We are looking at it very carefully. Take, for example, a cracker: where does it make sense to bring in hydrogen [as a source of energy]? Where does electrification of the furnace make sense? And where would the localised CCS be the best alternative? Because, again, it’s about cost but it’s also about making the most efficient use of electrons. SCOPE 3 EMISSIONS AND PLASTICS’ CIRCULARITY Maughon said Scope 3 emissions – those emitted by assets not owned or controlled by the reporting company, but that impact its value chain – are set to be the next big challenge for petrochemical producers, adding that SABIC is “very focused” on addressing them, but without giving much detail on how it plans to do so. He linked those emissions to how plastics’ circularity can be managed, adding that SABIC is committed to improving that as far as a producer could be part of the solution. Recycling systems across the world are deficient and most plastics are currently not circular. “A large part of Scope 3 emissions [for SABIC] come from feedstock supply, and that needs to be managed by our suppliers. However, a big part would involve the end of life of plastics, and that is why we are focused on circular portfolio,” he said. “It’s not about stopping producing plastics entirely [to achieve circularity]… It’s our obligation to make plastics sustainable and the end of life of plastics, that’s the issue. This means investing in collection, sortation, and conversion technologies, in enhancing investments in mechanical recycling… These are all critical pieces to make that happen.” Maughon was asked whether SABIC would be more of a chemical and mechanical recycler than a producer of plastics in a few decades. “SABIC’s assets are going to be low-carbon assets, obviously, and I think there will be much higher emigration of chemical recycling as part of the feedstock. There will probably be a mixture of bio-based feedstocks as well,” he said. “You are going to see a much more complex feedstock mixture, and you are going to see a more complex approach towards managing carbon emissions from those assets… But there are limits to it because you are processing those materials and there is a mixture of materials in that mix, and you run the risk to lower their performance. You have to focus on how you can upgrade, or at least maintain, performance.” MIDDLE EAST AND CRUDE OIL: GAME OVER? This GPCA meeting in Dubai this week is the first to which the world arrives knowing that fossil fuels will have – or should have – and end date if the planet is to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Under current pledges made by countries in Paris in 2015 and in Glasgow, UK, earlier this year, the world is still on course for a global warming well above the 1.5°C target. The Middle East, a region that has became rich since the boom of crude oil extraction and, at a later date, with hydrocarbons production, is at a crossroads economically: treasury reserves in many of the region’s countries entirely depend on income from oil exports. And that, in a world aiming to stop using fossil fuels, does not bode well for the future. But Maughon – a US national – was adamant, however, that the Middle East’s supply of sunlight may be its own saviour. “Countries in the region are investing heavily in hydrogen, in CCS, in solar energy… I see a lot of opportunities here, and it’s clear they recognise the energy transition and are making the right investments to start that path and manage that transition,” he said. “They have access to low-cost renewable sunlight and they are committed to invest in renewables… You have all the right elements here. And the intent publicly, and with dollars, is to invest against those targets.” The GPCA 15th annual forum takes place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 7-9 December. Front page picture: Delegates at the GPCA annual forum on Tuesday  Source: GPCA Interview article by Jonathan Lopez

08-Dec-2021

India, Russia sign oil supply deal; eye petrochemical, gas projects

MUMBAI (ICIS)–Russia's state-owned energy firm Rosneft will supply nearly 2m tonnes of crude oil to Indian Oil Co (IOC) next year. This is among the 28 investment pacts signed between Russia and India on 6 December which also include deals in the petrochemical, gas and fertilizer sectors. Under the Rosneft-IOC deal, the Russian energy firm will supply oil from the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk to the Indian firm in 2022. The two companies had signed a similar deal in February 2020. Exploring partnerships in the petrochemical sector were also discussed in the recently concluded 21st India-Russia Summit, during Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to the south Asian nation, "Both sides, appreciating the strength of the Indian petrochemical market, agreed to expand collaboration through Russian participation by way of investment, technological and other ways of collaboration in Indian petrochemical sector,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated. Nayara Energy, which is 49.13%-owned by Rosneft, plans to expand into petrochemical production with a 450,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant. Currently, the company operates a 20m tonne/year refinery at Vadinar in the western Gujarat state. Meanwhile, IOC is exploring the feasibility of setting up a dual-feed cracker along with downstream units at its Paradip refinery in the eastern Odisha state, in collaboration with Russian petrochemicals company SIBUR. SIBUR currently has a joint venture with Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) called Reliance Sibur Elastomers, which operates a 120,000 tonne/year butyl rubber facility at Jamnagar in Gujarat. RIL owns 74.9 % of the company, while SIBUR holds the remaining 25.1%. IOC is also exploring a technical tie-up with Russian oil and gas firm Gazprom Neft. On fertilizers, a long-term agreement between the two countries should ease the severe supply shortage in India. Four Indian state-owned companies and Russia’s PhosAgro have signed a deal related to fertilizer supply for the fiscal year ending March 2022. PhosAgro is expected to supply five types of fertilisers including diammonium phosphate (DAP), India’s chemicals and fertilisers minister Mansukh Mandaviya said. In the gas sector, India and Russia are looking at investing in infrastructure and distribution projects, including the use of natural gas in transportation and fuels like hydrogen. These new investment pacts should boost the two countries’ bilateral investments by 2025 to $50bn and bilateral trade to $30bn. In the fiscal year ending March 2021, their bilateral trade totaled $8.1bn, with Indian exports to Russia at $2.6bn, while imports from Russia stood at $5.48bn, according to official data. Focus article by Priya Jestin

08-Dec-2021

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