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Canada moves ahead with plastics registry as UN plastics pollution session starts in Ottawa

TORONTO (ICIS)–Following the conclusion of a consultation period, Canada’s federal government has published a formal notice in the Canada Gazette for its planned Federal Plastics Registry. The registry will require plastic resin manufacturers, producers of plastic products and service providers to annually report on the amounts and types of plastic they put out in the market, and where the plastic ends up. Environment minister Steven Guilbeault said at a webcast press event on Monday that the registry would create an inventory of plastics data, with the objective of providing transparency about the production, distribution, sale, use and disposal of plastics in Canada. Industry knew what kind of plastics is being produced, to whom it is sold, and how it is used, the minister said. The registry, in turn, would put this information into one place and make it accessible to the public, researchers and non-governmental organizations, enabling them to track plastics production and plastics use, he said. The registry would have a similar role in fighting plastic pollution as the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory reports the government uses in combatting emissions, he said, adding that without this information it was hard to tackle these challenges. The first phase of reporting to the plastics registry’s IT system is due to begin on 29 September 2025. UN PLASTICS POLLUTION TREATYIn related news, delegates from more than 170 countries on Tuesday gathered in Ottawa for the fourth session of the UN’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-4) to develop an international legally binding treaty on containing plastic pollution. The event runs from 23-29 April. German chemical producers’ trade group VCI and Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) said they are supporting the fight against plastics pollution. VCI is looking to INC-4 and a subsequent final INC-5 to be held in South Korea in November for a global commitment to a circular economy, in which plastic products are reused or recycled, rather than ending up as waste in the environment, it said. At the same time, VCI stressed the benefits of plastics. An across-the-board "demonization" of plastics would end up harming the climate and the environment, rather than helping it, said VCI director general Wolfgang Grosse Entrup. “A sustainable future requires plastics," he said and pointed, as examples, to plastics used in wind turbines, electric vehicles (EV) and packaging – applications in which plastics help avoid carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, he said. Likewise, CIAC vice president of policy Isabelle Des Chenes told media in a webcast event that plastics, for example, help preserve food. "There's a lot of plastic and there's a lot of plastic for a reason," she added. Additional reporting by Tom Brown Thumbnail photo of environment minister Steven Guilbeault; photo source: government of Canada


PODCAST: Cracker closures could be first of a big wave as overcapacity grows

BARCELONA (ICIS)–Recent cracker closure announcements in Europe and Japan may be the first of many as the industry grapples with chronic overcapacity driven by China and the Middle East. Three cracker closure announcements in Europe, Japan since late March 1.4 million tonnes of capacity affected, but up to 20 million may be needed Europe, Japan, South Korea suffer from higher costs Negative chemicals demand growth possible in China China still dominates global chemical markets Opportunity to pivot sites to low carbon, local markets 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.


Eurozone April private sector activity momentum accelerates despite weaker manufacturing

LONDON (ICIS)–Eurozone private sector activity continued to thaw in April, moving further into growth territory as a resurgent service sector offset a manufacturing industry sinking deeper into contraction. North-south divide eases as Germany, France condition improve Manufacturing sector weakens in eurozone, UK Input cost inflation likely to pressure European Central Bank The eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the month firmed to 51.4, a substantial increase from 50.3 in March and the highest level in nearly a year, as the bloc continued to gradually lift out of a protracted downturn. A PMI score of above 50.0 signifies growth. The north-south divide that has characterised recent months, with Mediterranean nations firming while Germany and France remained mired in contraction, eased during the month, with more-broad-based momentum among key economies. Germany returned to growth during the month, while France came close to stabilising, according to PMI data provider S&P Global. Momentum also continued to build for the UK economy, which hit an 11-month high of 54.0, despite the manufacturing sector slipping back into recessionary territory at 49.1, with momentum also sinking for producers in the eurozone. At 45.6, the eurozone manufacturing sector PMI reading represented a four-month low and the 13th consecutive month of contraction, although the industry outlook was buoyed by signals of firmer demand driven by the global inventory cycle. Price pressures intensified slightly during the month as average input costs across the goods and services sector saw the fastest combined increase over the past year after cooling in March. Despite manufacturing sector input pricing remaining on contraction footing, the decline was the smallest in 14 months. Higher cost and sales price inflation is likely to be noted by the European Central Bank’s monetary policy committee, according to Cyrus de la Rubia, chief economist at Hamburg Commercial Bank, which helps to assemble the eurozone PMI dat. Odds are still strong for the first interest rate cuts to fall in  June, he added, but the price increases are likely to present a stronger challenge to the decision, and potentially slow the cadence of additional reductions. “The PMI figures are poised to test the ECB's willingness to cut interest rates in June. Accelerated increases in input costs, likely driven not only by higher oil prices but also, more concerningly, by higher wages, are a cause for scrutiny,” he said. “Concurrently, service sector companies have raised their prices at a faster rate than in March, fuelling expectations that services inflation will persist. Despite these factors, we expect the ECB to cut rates in June. However, we… expect a more cautious approach,” he added. Consultancy Oxford Economics also expects the first rate cut to come in June despite the growing evidence of stronger upward pressure on inflation. “The increase in output prices remains above its long-term average, driven by the services sector, but we do not think sticky services prices will prevent the ECB from cutting rates in June,” said Oxford senior economist Leo Barincou. Despite the ongoing disruption in the Red Sea, supply chains continued to tighten, with manufacturing supplier delivery times falling for the third consecutive month as a result of fewer shipping delays. A steep reduction in input purchases by eurozone manufacturers also eased pressure on logistics. Early second-quarter conditions point so far to a 0.3% expansion in eurozone GDP and a 0.4% uptick in for the UK compared to the first three months of the year, according to the data. Focus article by Tom Brown. Thumbnail photo: A statue of a bull outside the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, Netherlands (Source: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock)


PODCAST: Chinese and Iranian supply to determine urea trend

LONDON (ICIS)–The urea market is expected to remain subdued as Chinese exports resume over the next few months and given Iranian producers eagerness to move product before any fresh sanctions are imposed. China exports to resume but challenges remain Iran offers over 200,000 tonnes for May India’s return unlikely before June In this podcast, ICIS senior editors Sylvia Traganida and Deepika Thapliyal discuss the global supply and demand situation for urea and ammonia, and the future developments for both products.


Saudi Aramco eyes stake in Hengli Petrochemical; prowls for more China investments

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Aramco continues its quest for downstream petrochemical investments in the world’s second-biggest economy, adding Hengli Petrochemical in a list of target companies in which the global energy giant intends to acquire a strategic stake. The acquisitions in China are in line with Aramco’s Vision 2030 of expanding its downstream business. Aramco is currently in discussion to acquire a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical as the companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 22 April covering supply of crude and raw material, product sales and technology licensing. Hengli Petrochemical owns and operates a refinery and petrochemical complex at Liaoning province with 400,000 bbl/day of refining and 1.5 million tonnes/year ethylene capacities. The Chinese producer also operates several chemical plants in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces. The deal "aligns with Aramco’s strategy to expand its downstream presence in key high-value markets, advance its liquids-to-chemicals program, and secure long-term crude oil supply agreements", Aramco said in a statement on 22 April. Since 2022, Aramco has embarked on major investments in China, which involved taking strategic stakes in companies with major petrochemical projects under way. Chinese companies Planned investments Date of announcement Remarks Hengli Petrochemical 10% stake 22 Apr 2024 Rongsheng Petrochemical Cross acquisition talks – Rongsheng to acquire 50% stake in Saudi Aramco Jubail Refinery Co (SASREF); Aramco to take a maximum 50% stake in Rongsheng’s Ningbo Zhongjin Petrochemical 2 Jan 2024 To jointly develop Zhongjin’s upgrading/expansion and a new advanced materials project in Zhoushan Shandong Yulong Petrochemical 10% stake 11 Oct 2023 Shandong Energy is currently building a refining and petrochemical complex in Yantai called Shandong Yulong Petrochemical – a joint venture project with Chinese conglomerate Nanshan Group Shenghong Petrochemical 10% stake 27 Sept 2023 Rongsheng Petrochemical 10% stake 27 Mar 2023 Deal completed in Jul ’23 Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co (HAPCO) a $12 billion joint venture, Aramco holds 30% 11 Mar 2022, final investment decision made Project broke ground in Mar ’23; to come on stream in 2026 Aramco CEO Amin Nasser in late March indicated that the company intends to continue making further investments in China’s chemicals sector with local partners, noting that the country has a "vitally important" place in the company’s global investment strategy. The energy giant aims to increase its liquids-to-chemicals throughput to 4 million barrels per day by 2030, which will require a wider footprint in China, the world’s biggest chemical market, analysts said. The investments will fuel further growth in the Chinese economy, they added. Focus article by Fanny Zhang Thumbnail image: The Guoyuan Port Container Terminal in Chongqing, China, on 29 February 2024. (Costfoto/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)


Saudi Aramco eyes 10% of China’s Hengli Petrochemical

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Aramco and China’s Hengli Group have entered into discussions regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical, the Chinese company said on Tuesday. Based on the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on 22 April, the partners will also cooperate on crude and raw material supply, product sales as well as technology licensing, it said. The deal "aligns with Aramco’s strategy to expand its downstream presence in key high-value markets, advance its liquids-to-chemicals program, and secure long-term crude oil supply agreements", Aramco said in a separate statement. Hengli Petrochemical owns and operates a refinery and petrochemical complex at Liaoning province with 400,000 bbl/day of refining and 1.5 million tonnes/year ethylene capacities. The company also owns several chemical plants in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.


US corn crop at 12% planted with soybeans at 8%

HOUSTON (ICIS)–US corn plantings are now 12% completed with soybeans at 8%, according to the latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) weekly crop progress report. While some areas continue to see wet weather, the current pace of the corn crop is equal to the 12% achieved in 2023 and ahead of the five-year average of 10% completed. Texas remains in the lead with 68% of its crop finished, followed by North Carolina at 51%. There is now 3% of the crop emerged, which is ahead of the 2% rate of last year and the five-year average of 2%. Soybeans have reached 8% completed, with the current progress equal to the 8% achieved in 2023 and above the five-year average of 4%. The top state for plantings is Arkansas with 43% of their soybeans done, with Louisiana close behind with 42% of its crop planted. For the other key crops, the USDA said cotton was now at 11% planted, with sorghum at 17% and spring wheat up to 15% completed.


US Tronox’s Q1 earnings higher than expected as TiO2, zircon sales shoot up

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–US titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zircon producer Tronox’s shares were up strongly on Monday after the company said its earnings in the first quarter had come between 9-31% higher than the analysts’ consensus. Tronox earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) stood at $131 million in Q1. Analyst consensus expected that figure to be between $100-120 million. Tronox’s shares were up 5.87% in Monday afternoon’s trading at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), compared with the last close on 19 April. EBITDA posted strong growth compared with the fourth quarter, although it fell year on year. EBITDA is the preferred metric to measure a company’s financial health as it strips out external factors out of the company’s control. Sales rose in all metrics for titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zircon, a mineral that increases resistance on glass and metal. The company's main end market is the paints and coatings sector, where TiO2 is the key feedstock. In February, the company already gave a hint its performance was proving better than expected when it raised operating rates for TiO2, with the company confident at the time that pricing for that material had bottomed out and should start improving after Q1. These are Tronox’s key products – TiO2 sales rose in Q1 by 8% year on year, and by 17% quarter on quarter. Zircon posted even better metrics, although its weight within Tronox’s portfolio is much lower than TiO2’s. In Q1, zircon sales rose by 22% year on year, and by 54% quarter on quarter. Tronox (in $/million) Q1 2024 Q1 2023 Change Q4 2023 Change Q4 2023 vs Q1 2024 Revenue 774 708 9% 686 13% EBITDA 131 146 -10% 94 39% EBITDA margin 16.9% 20.6% -3.70% 13.7% 3.2% Net income/loss -9 25 N/A -56 N/A TIO2, ZIRCON AND OUTLOOK“Costs continued to trend favorably as a result of improved absorption from higher production volumes and the absence of non-repeating charges in prior quarters,” said Tronox’s CEO, John D Romano. The company added its priorities for the rest of 2024 would be prioritizing investments which “are critical to furthering our strategy” as well as bolstering its liquidity on the back of what it expects will be market recovery. The Stamford, state of Connecticut-headquartered producer added it will also aim to resume debt payments as well as “evaluate strategic high-growth” opportunities for potential acquisitions but fell short of disclosing more details. STOCK JUMP EXPECTED “Management attributed the guidance raise [to Q1 financials] to demand outpacing expectations for both TiO2 and zircon,” said analysts at Alembic Chemical Advisors. “Management also stated that in line with their year-end earnings call guidance, their costs continue to trend favorably as a result of improved absorption from higher production volume and the absence of non-repeating charges in prior quarters.” Analysts at Alembic Chemical did forecast Monday’s sharp price increase, adding it would return to more normal trading patterns after the excitement subsided. The chemical equity analysts at Alembic recommended selling Tronox’s stock to cash in gains while the rises on the positive Q1 preliminary results sentiment lasted.


Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 19 April. NEWS Brazil’s Petrobras, China’s CNCEC mull petchems, fertilizers joint projects Petrobras and China’s chemicals major CNCEC have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore petrochemicals and fertilizers joint projects, the Brazilian state-owned energy major said on Thursday. INSIGHT: Argentina’s petchems hit hardest by recession as country holds breath under Milei Argentina’s petrochemicals are taking a severe hit amid the recession, with falls in demand for some materials of up to 50%, but companies and the country are holding firm under the new President’s economic shock therapy. Brazil's Petrobras re-enters fertilizers sector with restart at ANSA plant Petrobras is to restart its large-scale ANSA fertilizers plant in Araucaria, state of Parana, which has been idle since 2020, the Brazilian state-owned energy major said late on Wednesday. Pemex to remain ‘fiscal challenge’ for Mexico's new administration – S&P Beleaguered finances at Pemex, the Mexican state-owned energy major, will require support from the federal budget for years to come, the analysts at S&P said this week. Argentina’s lower rates helping central bank shore up balance sheet at savers’ expense – economist Argentina’s latest cut to interest rates had more to do with shoring up the central bank’s balance sheet, possible thanks to currency controls implemented by the prior Administration, than the actual control of price rises, according to the director at Buenos Aires-based Fundacion Capital. Latin America's fiscal consolidation at risk of slippages as plans postponed – IMF Latin America’s countries high debt levels require fiscal consolidation plans which in some cases are being postponed, increasing risks for the long-term financial stability of the region, the Director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the IMF said on Friday. Chile inflation falls to 3.7% in March Chile’s annual inflation rate fell in March to 3.7%, down from 4.5% in February, according to the country’s statistics office INE. Brazil’s automotive output barely up in Q1, sales rise 9% Brazil’s petrochemicals-intensive automotive output rose by 0.4% in the first quarter, year on year, to just below 550,000 units, the country’s trade group Anfavea said on Monday. LatAm PE domestic price lower in Chile on cheaper US export offers Domestic polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed lower in Chile because of cheaper US export offers. In other Latin American (LatAm) countries, prices remained steady. Latin America’s February lube demand holds steady Lube demand in Latin America was relatively steady in February at a time of year when consumption typically falls in other markets like the US and Europe. The steady consumption coincided with lower base oils output in the region in February. LatAm PP international prices stable to up on higher freights from Asia International polypropylene (PP) prices were assessed as stable to higher because of increased freight rates from Asia to the region. However, Asian offers remain competitive compared to other origins like the Middle East and the US. Plant status: Dow Argentina shuts HDPE and LDPE plants on technical issues – sources US chemicals major Dow’s subsidiary in Argentina shut on 16 April a high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant due to a mechanical pump failure and a low density polyethylene (LDPE) plant due to technical failure, several sources said. Weather conditions starts to slightly shift PET demand in Latin America Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) prices remained stable in Brazil, with a slight softening in consumption coinciding with stabilized temperatures. However, demand continues to exceed expectations when compared with the corresponding period last year. Weather conditions starts to slightly shift PET demand in Latin America Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) prices remained stable in Brazil, with a slight softening in consumption coinciding with stabilized temperatures. However, demand continues to exceed expectations when compared with the corresponding period last year.


LOGISTICS: Panama Canal to add more transit slots in May

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) will increase the number of slots available for Panamax vessels to transit the waterway beginning 16 May and will add another slot for Neopanamax vessels on 1 June based on the present and projected water levels in Gatun Lake. The PCA began limiting the number of transits in August 2023 because of low water levels in Gatun Lake brought on by a severe drought that made 2023 the second driest year on record for the Panama Canal watershed catchment area. It was the first time in its history that transits were limited. The PCA opened two additional slots beginning 18 March, and a third on 25 March, bringing the total to 27/day, after solid rainfall in the region recently, but transits still remain well below 36 under normal conditions. The following table shows the number of available slots for booking dates from 7-15 May. The following table shows the number of available slots for booking dates from 16-31 May. The following table shows the number of available slots for booking dates from 1 June – 14 July. There will be some temporary reductions of booking slots during scheduled maintenance between 7-15 May, the PCA said. The number of ships transiting the Panama Canal daily – using a seven-day moving average – fell to 24 as of 17 April from 27 on 8 April, and compared with 38 on the same date a year ago, according to the most recent update at IMF PortWatch. Wait times for non-booked northbound vessels ticked higher to 1.8 days, and surged to 4.6 days for southbound vessels on 22 April, according to the PCA vessel tracker.


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