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PODCAST: Europe petrochemicals could learn lessons from Japan

BARCELONA (ICIS)–European petrochemical leaders should take inspiration from Japan, which is further ahead in reducing base chemicals while expanding in specialties and low carbon technologies. Japan hit by with high naphtha feedstock costs, growing global overcapacity 70% of crackers are more than 50 years old More than 10% of Japan’s crackers could close Downstream production also closing such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and paraxylene (PX) Japan basic chemicals losing ground, new focus on specialties Pushing materials for semiconductors, electronics Also expanding into bio-naphtha and pyrolysis oil Japanese companies want to licence their chemicals technologies Using ammonia and hydrogen to reduce dependence on LNG South Korea chemicals face existential crisis In this Think Tank podcast, Will Beacham interviews ICIS senior market development manager Itaru Kudose, 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.


PODCAST: Typhoon Gaemi to delay propane, butane cargo arrivals in China

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Typhoon Gaemi will test the resilience of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supply chain, causing temporary shipment delays and port closures, but market prices and arrival schedules are expected to remain stable and manageable. Join ICIS LPG analysts Shihao Zhou and Yan Wang as they discuss the impact of Typhoon Gaemi on China’s imported propane and butane arrivals. Typhoon Gaemi will delay propane and butane shipments, causing temporary logistical issues/ Seven Very Large Gas Carriers (VLGCs) carrying LPG will be affected by Typhoon Gaemi, with key ports in East China and Fuzhou closing until the end of July. Despite the typhoon, the arrival schedule remains manageable, with 4-5 VLGS expected to arrive in east China next week.


S Korea LG Chem Q2 net income plunges on poor battery earnings

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–LG Chem's second-quarter net income plunged year on year to won (W) 60 billion ($43m), weighed down by poor earnings at its battery unit LG Energy Solution, the South Korean producer said on Thursday. Group results in Korean won (W) billion Q2 2024 Q2 2023 % Change Sales 12,300 14,336 -14.2 Operating profit 406 618 -34.3 EBITDA 1,562 1,595 -2.1 Net income 60 671 -91.1 Q2 sales at company’s petrochemicals unit rose by 8.9% year on year to W4.97 billion. LG Chem’s petrochemicals unit swung to a Q2 operating profit of W32 billion, reversing the W13 billion loss in the same period of 2023. A gradual recovery in the supply/demand balance for LG Chem's petrochemical products is expected in Q3, but "profitability improvement is expected to be limited due to the delay in global demand recovery and rising freight rate". LG Energy Solution's Q2 operating profit fell by 57.7% year on year to W195 billion, with sales down 29.8% at W6.16 trillion. LG Chem holds a controlling 81.8% stake in LG Energy Solution, the leading car battery maker in the country in terms of sales. ($1 = W1,386)


South Korea Q2 GDP growth slows on weaker private consumption, exports

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–South Korea's economy posted a slower second-quarter annualized growth of 2.3% compared with the 3.3% pace set in the preceding quarter amid sluggish domestic consumption, preliminary central bank data showed on Thursday. Q2 private consumption rose by 0.9% year on year, slowing from the 1.0% expansion in the first three months of 2024, the Bank of Korea (BoK) said in a statement. Manufacturing for the period rose by 4.5%, slowing from the 6.5% growth registered in January-March; while exports grew at a slower pace of 8.7% compared with the 9.1% expansion in the first three months of the year. On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted basis, the South Korean economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.2% in April-June, reversing the 1.3% growth posted in the first three months of this year. "We had expected South Korea’s GDP to slow sharply, but not to the point of falling into contraction territory," Dutch banking and financial information services provider ING said in a note. Q2 domestic growth components were weak except for government spending, which rose by 0.7% quarter on quarter, it said. Private consumption, construction, and facility investment dropped by 0.2%, 1.1% and 2.1%, respectively, The downside surprise came mainly from trade, as imports grew faster than exports, ING said. Q2 export growth moderated to 0.9% quarter on quarter, just half the 1.8% increase posted in Q1. Exports in Q2 were supported by higher shipments of chemicals and motor vehicles. Meanwhile, import growth rebounded to 1.2%, compared with a contraction of 0.4% in Q1, mainly buoyed by higher imports of crude oil and petroleum products. "Given the weaker-than-expected second quarter 2024 GDP, we have revised the annual GDP outlook downwards from 2.6% year-on-year to 2.3%," ING said. "We recently warned that the BOK would face challenges in its monetary policy decision as inflation cools towards 2% and sluggish domestic growth supports a rate cut, but at the same time, concerns about rising household debt are growing." In its latest forecast in May, the BoK raised its 2024 GDP growth forecast to 2.5% from 2.1% previously amid strong exports driven by robust chip demand. For inflation, the forecast average was unchanged at 2.6% for this year.


Typhoon Gaemi makes landfall in Taiwan; Mailiao port remains closed

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Typhoon Gaemi made landfall on Taiwan’s eastern coast shortly before midnight on 24 July, bringing fierce winds and heavy rains to vast swathes of the island, with the Mailiao port remaining closed on Thursday. Financial markets and workplaces are also closed for a second consecutive day. Operations at the Mailiao port are expected to resume on 26 July after a three-day shutdown, according to market sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The port is operated by Taiwanese major Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC) which primarily serves the company’s Mailiao refinery and petrochemical complex. The closure of Mailiao port is a precautionary measure taken for operational safety, according to a Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC) source, adding that operations at the company's ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) plant in Mailiao were normal. Taiwan's major petrochemical complexes are in Toufen and Mailiao in the northwest; and Ta-sheh and Linyuan in Kaohsiung City in the south. Authorities in Taiwan have reported two weather-related fatalities and more than 200 others injured as the storm approached. Officials have evacuated more than 8,000 people across at-risk areas of the country. Prior to making landfall near Hualien County, Taiwanese authorities categorized Gaemi as a "severe typhoon," the highest level on their three-tier scale. This marked the first severe typhoon to hit the island since 2016. The storm has since weakened as it moved inland. At 08:30 local time (00:30 GMT), Gaemi was 80 kilometres northwest of Hsinchu, packing maximum winds of 90 kiometres/hour, Taiwan's Central Weather Administration (CWA) said in its latest update. A typhoon warning is in effect for Nantou, Chiayi, Chiayi City, Keelung City, Yilan, Changhua, New Taipei City, Hsinchu, Hsinchu City, Taoyuan City, Penghu, Taichung City, Taipei City, Tainan City, Taitung, Hualien, Miaoli, Kinmen, Yunlin, Lienchiang and Kaohsiung City, the CWA said. Over 4,000 people living in in northern regions, especially Hualien, were evacuated due to the storm. Hualien, a mountainous area prone to landslides, was also severely affected by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake earlier this year. Gaemi is expected to make its way across the Taiwan Strait towards Fujian and Zhejiang later on Thursday, with a red storm alert currently in place in both these provinces in southern China. The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has issued a red typhoon warning, the highest level of alert, for strong winds expected in seas off the southeastern coast and coastal areas of Fujian and southern Zhejiang provinces. The Fujian Maritime Safety Administration has launched a Level I emergency response, the highest alert, in anticipation of Gaemi’s arrival, according to crisis management firm Crisis24. Ports have been closed and vessels have been ordered to return to shore, it said. Thumbnail photo shows the location of Typhoon Gaemi at 04:30 GMT on 25 July (Source: Additional reporting by Angeline Soh, Helen Lee and Samuel Wong


PODCAST: Hydrogen – the critical blend for decarbonizing gas power in China

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's installed capacity of gas power generation is projected to surpass 150 GW by 2025, representing roughly 6% of the country's total installed power generation capacity. This presents substantial investment prospects within China and aligns with the nation's ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Hydrogen, often regarded as a potential fuel for blending with natural gas, offers a promising avenue for reducing emissions from power generation. In this podcast, ICIS senior LNG analyst Xu Fei will delve into the mechanics of hydrogen-fueled gas turbines and their potential to significantly cut carbon emissions.


ANALYST UPDATE: Dutch hydrogen market growth October 2023-April 2024

LONDON (ICIS)–ICIS Hydrogen Foresight data shows that over the period October 2023-April 2024, the Dutch hydrogen market saw growth across planned low-carbon hydrogen supply and demand. However, despite progression across future buyers and sellers, project progression has remained muted, with no projects progressing to final investment decision (FID). To review the findings of this update, please see the complete analysis below.


Egypt issues new tender as LNG imports bring relief

EGPC seeks another five LNG cargoes Local industry restarts, power cuts suspended Egypt to bring in up to 26 cargoes over summer LONDON (ICIS)–Egypt is in the market for another five LNG cargoes as the country continues to address declining domestic gas production and soaring summer demand. Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) has issued a TTF-linked DES tender covering 13-14 and 25-26 August and 3-4, 12-13 and 21-22 September delivery windows, traders said on Wednesday. The two cargoes for delivery in August and the middle cargo in September would be delivered to Egypt’s Ain Sukhna terminal, while the first and third September cargoes would be sent to Jordan’s Aqaba terminal for further pipeline delivery. The tender closes on 29 July at 12:00 noon Cairo time and is valid to 18:00 on the same day. This is the fourth LNG tender round Egypt has issued covering the summer period this year, as the country has been forced to turn from LNG exports to imports. EGPC has previously been in the market seeking a total of 22 cargoes in three separate rounds. All cargoes were reported to have been awarded, expect for the 1-2 September cargo in a two-cargo tender that closed on 22 July, one trader said. If the latest tender is fully awarded, this could bring a total of 26 spot cargoes into Egypt from mid-June to mid-September. UREA PRODUCERS RESTART Latest data from association JODI shows a continued decline in domestic gas production. Average May production was around 138 million cubic meters (mcm)/day, down from 142mcm/day in April and 163mcm/day in May 2023. However, the flow of LNG seems to have brought some relief to local industry. Some Egyptian urea producers shut down for a day last week but then restarted, sources said, with one source attributing the ramp up to LNG imports. Five cargoes have been delivered since the start of July, according to ICIS data. As of this week, urea plants in Egypt are running at around 80% capacity on average. “I believe this will [be sustained] till the end of summer period,” a urea source said. “Heard also that old electricity stations have started to work with fuel oil as an alternative [for] gas,” they added. Only one of Abu Qir’s prilled urea lines is down, while its other two lines are running as normal. The government has also suspended its electricity load-shedding program from 21 July until mid-September, as recently announced by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. The Prime Minister said the power cuts halted after the arrival of some LNG cargoes. The cuts were introduced last summer and resulted in daily two-to-three hour power cuts across most of the country. Additional reporting by Deepika Thapliyal.


Eurozone private sector momentum slows further in July

LONDON (ICIS)–Eurozone private sector momentum almost slowed to a standstill in July, dropping to a five-month low as new orders fell and business confidence ebbed. The composite eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slipped to 50.1 in the month compared with 50.9 in June, according to S&P Global, with manufacturing sinking further into contraction and service sector growth slowing. A PMI score of above 50.0 signifies growth. Output in Germany sank for the first time in four months in July, while activity in France ebbed for the third consecutive month. Business confidence for the bloc as a whole dropped to its lowest level in six months which arrested the spell of new hiring. The rate of input cost inflation accelerated but low demand meant that companies pushed through the price increases at a softer pace, contributing to the slowest pace of change for inflation since October. The decline in manufacturing activity was the largest monthly fall in 2024, with services slowing but still managing to keep the region in overall growth. The manufacturing sector PMI fell to 45.6 in July from 45.8 in June, while the service sector index fell from 52.8 to 51.9 month on month. New export orders fell faster than total new business as players struggled to secure international sales, representing the 29th successive month of decline. “It’s unsettling how steadily companies in the manufacturing sector are slashing jobs month by month. The pace has barely changed over the last ten months,” said Cyrus de la Rubia, chief economist at Hamburg Commercial Bank, which helps to produce the data. Despite the tepid economic data, sticky input price inflation makes the case for successive rate cuts more difficult, he added. “If only growth was considered, you find a strong argument for a rate cut in September by the ECB (European Central Bank). However, prices data did not provide hoped for relief,” de la Rubia said. “Our conclusion is that while a September rate cut will most probably be exercised, it will be much trickier to follow this path in the months thereafter, unless the downturn morphs into a deep recession,” he added. The unexpected pace of decline for the eurozone economy may result in economic forecast cuts down the line, according to Rory Fennessy, senior economist at Oxford Economics. “The eurozone's flash July PMIs corroborate the message sent by other leading indicators that the recovery is faltering. If leading indicators continue to underwhelm, this may result in a downgrade to our GDP growth forecasts for H2 2024,” he said. Momentum for the UK private sector continued to strengthen despite dynamics seen in the eurozone, with the composite PMI hitting 52.7 in July compared to 52.3 in June, a two-month high. UK manufacturing sector growth outpaced that of services, reaching a 29-month high of 54.4 compared to 52.4 in the latter industry. Average prices charged by companies eased but remain steep due to elevated costs, according to S&P Global. Input costs for the service sector eased on the back of softening wage pressures, but the manufacturing sector saw the sharpest rise in costs in a year-and-a-half on the back of Red Sea logistics disruption. The slower pace of price increases raises the odds of a central bank rate cut before autumn, but the pace of winding down current high interest levels is likely to be slow, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence chief economist Chris Williamson. “Prices have meanwhile risen at their lowest rate for three-and-a-half years, further raising the prospect of a summer rate cut,” he said. “However, policymakers will likely take a cautious approach to loosening policy amid signs of inflationary pressures pivoting away from services towards manufacturing, where Red Sea shipping delays and higher freight prices are adding to costs again,” he added. Thumbnail photo: Rotterdam port (Source: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock)


VIDEO: China's LDPE market weakens as supply tightness eases

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Watch ICIS senior industry analyst Joanne Wang discuss the driving factors behind the China's low density polyethylene (LDPE) price fluctuations this year and briefly discuss prospects for the second half of this year. Q2 LDPE prices rose sharply due to concentrated maintenance at home and abroad. Imported shipments arrived in late June, and coupled with limited domestic demand growth, prices fell. New facilities may start up in Q4, leading to further increases in domestic supply.


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