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ICIS Supply and Demand Database

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Discern long-term trends built on historical trade flow  data going back to 1978, and respond swiftly to market conditions if they change in unforeseen ways.

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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.


Australia SO4 has first organic SOP production at Lake Way project

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Salt Lake Potash Limited (SO4) has reached a significant milestone in developing organic sulphate of potash (SOP) in Australia as it has produced its first volumes at its Lake Way project in Wiluna, Western Australia. With the project in development for over seven years, SO4 was acquired by Sev.en Global Investments in October 2022 and it has subsequently made significant investments in all aspects of the production process. This includes the installation of new flotation units in the process plant which has been fundamental to successfully managing the diverse feedstock from the pond network. The process plant remains in the commissioning phase, but officials said the production of SOP after years of effort provides significant proof of the operating ability of the system. “This important step confirms the capability of the SO4 team to conceptualize, design, construct and operate the SOP mining and production facilities and achieve world-class SOP quality parameters,” said Mark Sykes, Sev.en Global Investments, Australian country manager. “We are proud of the entire team, who have demonstrated a high level of commitment and endurance to reach a key milestone.” Sev.en Global said it is looking forward to bringing the project to full production and establishing itself in the market to supply Australian agriculture and global markets with high-quality sustainable fertilizer suitable for use in organic farming.


Brazil chemicals trade deficit down 9% in H1 on lower priced imports

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s trade deficit in chemicals narrowed by 9% in H1 2024 to $21.7 billion on the back of lower priced imports entering the country, according to chemicals trade group Abiquim. In the January-June period, Brazil imported $28.8 billion of chemicals, down 7.5% year on year, while exports stood at $7.1 billion, down 4.8%. In H1 2023, the chemicals trade deficit stood at $23.7 billion and, for the full-year, it stood at $47.0 billion, the second highest figure in the past 35 years, according to Abiquim. Although the deficit narrowed, Abiquim was not pleased and linked the improvement to lower priced imports which, it said, continue denting domestic producers' market share. “This apparent improvement in the chemicals trade deficit is directly related to imports with prices 15.3% lower than in the first half of 2023, leveraging purchases of products on the international market at prices largely below the production costs practiced in Brazil,” said the trade group. “These products come mainly from Asian countries, whose competitiveness has been sustained by Russian raw materials purchased at favorable prices due to the war in east Europe.” Abiquim has demanded high import tariffs on several chemicals for the past few months; in an interview with ICIS, its director general Andre Passos said higher tariffs were only one of the three legs of a wider plan to protect domestic producers' market share. In June, Brazil’s chemicals trade unions joined Abiquim to demand higher tariffs. “To show the worrying sings, it is enough to highlight the volume in tonnes of these imports [entering Brazil] in the first half at 27.9 million tonnes, up 9.1% year on year. Highlights include the aggressive increases in thermoplastic resins imports (up 41.2%), thermosetting resins (26.8%), intermediates for thermosetting resins (35.8%), intermediates for synthetic fibers (22.1%) and other organic chemical products (15.2%),” said the trade group. “This scenario is a serious threat to the national production of chemical products and has, above all, deteriorated the level of utilization rates [which stood in May at a record low of 58%]. Some companies are considering hibernating plants, shutdowns, and even deactivation of units.”


BLOG: China events suggest no global petchems recovery until 2026

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson. Conventional wisdom suggests that the petrochemicals cycle may have bottomed out as the prospects of interest rate cuts increase. There are signs of recovery in the Europe. And even in a high inflationary environment, the US consumer kept on spending with unemployment at record lows. This, in my view, is a misreading of the data. Because of the disproportionate influence of China, what happens elsewhere doesn't really matter in the short- to medium-term. China had a 22% share of the global population in 1992 and a 9% share of global polymers demand. By the end of this year, ICIS forecasts that China’s share of the global population will have slipped to 18%, but its share of global polymers demand will have risen to 40%. Too much global capacity was planned on the basis of China’s petrochemicals demand growth being at 6-8% per annum over the long term, whereas 1-4% now appears to be more likely. China’s petrochemicals capacity growth was underestimated because of cost-per-tonne economics used to assess projects. History teaches us is that national strategic objective also come into play. One can argue, as the Rhodium Group does in an 18 July 2024 research paper, that China’s economic growth may never return to previous levels. This would mean no return to the double-digit annual growth rates we saw in petrochemicals demand during the Petrochemicals Supercycle. In today’s main chart, I kept to our base case assumptions on global polypropylene (PP) virgin production growth between 2024 and 2030, which is almost the same as demand growth. I then manually reduced capacity growth until I got back to the historically very healthy operating rate of 87% (operating rates being production divided by capacity). (What applies to PP applies to other petrochemicals and polymers. The ICIS data for other products suggest similar steep reductions in capacity growth versus our base to get back to the long-term history of operating rates). This led me to the conclusion that global PP capacity growth would need to be just 1.6m tonnes a year versus 5m tonnes a year under our base case. Under our base case, we see global operating rates averaging just 76% in 2024-2030. Capacity growth of just 1.6m tonnes a year versus our base case would require substantial capacity closures in some regions. Closures are never easy and take considerable time because links with upstream refineries, environmental clean-up and redundancy costs – and the reluctance to be the “first plant out” in case markets suddenly recover. The sale of rationalisation suggested by just 1.6m tonnes a year of capacity growth therefore suggests no full recovery in PP and in other petrochemicals until, I am guessing, 2026. 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.


INSIGHT OUTLOOK: Next US president may upend EV policies, trade, regulations

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The US election could see Donald Trump return as president with majorities in both legislative chambers, which could bring a reduction in excessive red tape, weaker support for electric vehicles (EVs) and impose even more ponderous tariffs and trade restrictions. Incumbent President Joe Biden has dropped out of the race, and current polls show Trump ahead in the election The House of Representatives and the Senate are closely split between the nation's two major parties, so the Republican party could obtain majorities in both legislative chambers Regardless of who wins the presidential election on 5 November, the outlook remains pessimistic for tariff relief and trade deals in the US US TRADE POLICY WILL REMAIN RESTRICTIVERegardless of who wins the presidential election, US trade policy will remain restrictive, which could leave the nation's chemical exports vulnerable to retaliatory tariffs imposed during a trade dispute. Also, tariffs could increase the cost of imports of critical chemical intermediates. Biden's campaign website did not discuss trade policy, and he recently dropped out of the race. But he maintained many of the tariffs that Trump introduced during his presidency in 2016-2020. In addition, Biden raised tariffs on EVs from China. He signed bills passed by Congress that required local content rules for government programs. Trump's platform proposed a baseline tariff, with the candidate mentioning 10% for most imports. For China, he mentioned tariffs of more than 60% during an interview on the television program Fox News. Trump's campaign website proposes a reciprocal trade act, under which the US could match tariffs that another country imposes on its exports. Although the platform concedes that reductions are possible, the proposal focuses on the potential of higher tariffs. TRUMP TO ROLL BACK BIDEN'S EV POLICIESBiden did not mention EVs on his campaign website. But during his presidential term, the federal government used multiple laws and regulatory statutes to promote EV adoption. If Trump becomes president, he has pledged to cancel what he calls the electric vehicle mandate. He specified many of Biden's policies that encouraged the adoption of EVs. EVs typically consume more plastics on a per unit basis than automobiles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs). EVs also pose different material challenges, which is increasing demand for different plastics and compounds. Policies that prolong the use of ICE-based vehicles could extend the operating life of the nation's refineries. Companies could be more willing to invest in maintenance and repairs if they are confident that they could recoup their investments. Refineries produce many building block chemicals, such as propylene, benzene, toluene and mixed xylenes (MX). BIDEN, TRUMP PRESENT EXTREMES ON CHEM REGULATIONSBiden and Trump lay on opposite extremes of regulations and policy. Under Biden, the federal government has adopted numerous regulations, many of which the chemical industry has said provided them with little benefit given the time and expense of compliance. The past six months has been described as the worst regulatory environment that the chemical industry has ever seen. That burdensome regulatory climate could persist if a Democrat wins the election, since personnel from the Biden administration could remain in place. The following lists some of the regulatory policies that could either persist under a Democratic administration or weaken under a Trump administration: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted a whole chemical approach in determining whether a substance poses an unreasonable risk under the nation's main chemical-safety program, known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The regulator is currently reviewing vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), acrylonitrile (ACN) and aniline, a feedstock used to make methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). Changes to the Clean Waters Act, the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Hazard Communication Standard that were made by Biden. Biden has promoted environmental justice throughout the federal government. Environmental justice could make it harder for chemical companies to expand existing plants or build new ones. Because these are federal policies, a different president could reverse them. Trump could try to unravel some of Biden's rules to the degree possible under executive authority. However, some of the rules will persist because of entrenched bureaucracy or because they are final. The pace of new regulations would likely slow under a Trump presidency. He has pledged to restore his order that for every new regulation introduced by the federal government, two existing ones must be eliminated. OTHER POLICY DIFFERENCESSuperfund tax: If Trump wins the presidency and Republicans win the legislative branch, that could set up a repeal of the Superfund tax, which imposes taxes on several building-block chemicals and their derivatives. Republican legislators have already introduced bills to repeal the tax. Trump tax cuts: Trump has pledged that he would make his 2017 tax cuts permanent. These are set to expire at the end of 2025 from his previous term in 2016-2020. Oil production: Biden has imposed several restrictions on oil and gas production on federal land and on offshore leases, although this did not stop production from surging in the Permian Basin, much of which is outside of government control. Trump has pledged to remove those restrictions. Insight by Al Greenwood Thumbnail shows US capitol. Image by Lucky-photographer


Mexico petchems could have more opportunities under Sheinbaum amid nearshoring – Braskem Idesa exec

LONDON (ICIS)–Mexican petrochemicals have much to gain under President-Elect Claudia Sheinbaum as the country taps into the nearshoring trend, which will require large public and private investments, according to an executive at polymers producer Braskem Idesa. Sergio Plata, head of institutional relations and communications at the mostly polyethylene (PE) producer, added that nearshoring – North American companies bringing back to the region production facilities – will require a large country effort, which the public sector alone now dominates the energy sector, will not be able to provide. Plata added that the first signs from Sheinbaum towards chemicals were encouraging: even as President-Elect, she has already visited the petrochemicals production hub in the state of Veracruz – the largest in the country. In it, she mentioned specific industry issues such as supply of certain raw materials which were very much welcomed by executives. Last week, ICIS published the first part of this interview, in which Plata said supply of ethane from Mexico’s state-owned crude oil major Pemex had stabilized after a renegotiation of the contract’s terms, although he added global PE market remained in the doldrums and a recovery may not arrive until the second half of 2025. Braskem Idesa operates the Ethylene XXI complex in Coatzacoalcos, south of the industrial state of Veracruz, which has capacity to produce 1.05 million tonnes/year of ethylene and downstream capacities of 750,000 tonnes/year for high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and 300,000 tonnes/year for low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Braskem Idesa is a joint venture made up of Brazil’s polymers major Braskem (75%) and Mexican chemical producer Grupo Idesa (25%). WHAT SORT OF PRESIDENT SHE WILL BESheinbaum won an overwhelming majority in the Presidential election in June, with 60% of the vote, and her party Morena achieved a ‘supermajority’ in parliament of two-thirds which initially spooked financial markets and brought the Mexican peso down. Financial analysts have warned that, for Mexico to tap into the nearshoring trend, its infrastructure – transport but also aged electricity transmission lines – will need to be upgraded during the remaining of this decade. That effort, most analysts agree, will only be possible with large sums of private investment, so the state-owned electricity utility CFE may need to give some way to private players. Equally, during Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s term, Mexico’s emissions rose, in opposition to the country’s commitments agreed in the 2015 Paris Accord and later enshrined into its domestic law. Lopez Obrador handpicked Sheinbaum to succeed him. Despite not being that apart generationally – he is 70, she is 62 – the President-Elect is a climate scientist who started her career in environmental roles, and most analysts think she may run free from her successor – by personal choice or forced by the circumstances – in issues like climate, if she wants to keep Mexico as a respected economy which fulfils its commitments. “I think she has a very clear vision in this regard – she knows the commitments [Mexico adhered to]. Something we are liking a lot is the appointments she is making – people with experience to work in the departments they are being appointed to: they have the necessary technical knowledge,” said Plata. “We have also seen her approaching the private sector and that, without a doubt, for us as an industry that is a very good start. In those meetings, our concerns about compliance with regulations have been raised. Something is very clear: to grasp the opportunities in nearshoring, collaboration with private sector is essential to bring real benefits to all Mexicans.” Plata said that, while Sheinbaum has not met Braskem Idesa yet, she has had a busy schedule meeting with industrialists, including with the country’s chemicals trade group Aniq as well as the Veracruz industrial trade group, which Plata presides. “When she visited the south of Veracruz, she talked about reactivating the petrochemical industry, and talked about very specific issues that the industry is worried about, such production of ethane, of ethylene, of ammonia: things that sounded very good to us,” said Plata. MEXICO, VENEZUELA COMPARISONSHe was asked if, given Morena’s ‘supermajority’ in parliament, Mexico could become a new Venezuela – when the governing party takes over all resorts of power and the country stops being a democracy worth the name. “I really believe that her vision is constructive, and she intends to work with the private sector so her Administration can work for everyone. We will have to see what decisions she takes along the way. For instance, she has spoken many times about the interoceanic corridor [a project to link Mexico’s east and west coasts by water],” said Plata. “Precisely, the promotion of the corridor has at its base the chemicals and the petrochemicals industries, because one of the objectives of the corridor is to take advantage of the raw materials in the area, which would benefit petrochemicals but also agriculture, for instance, and give added value. We see plenty of opportunities there.” Front page picture: Braskem Idesa’s facilities in Coatzacoalcos Source: Braskem Idesa Interview article by Jonathan Lopez


Canpotex fully committed on potash sales through September

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Offshore potash marketing group Canpotex announced it is fully committed on volumes for potash sales through 30 September. The group said this commitment comes amid continued strong demand for potash and widespread engagement in all major offshore markets. Canpotex said this level of demand is being supported by solid fundamentals for agricultural commodities, as well as recognition of the clear value and affordability of potash in key growing regions. In addition, it has seen that the focus on food security and food quality continues in many of their markets. Canpotex is the offshore marketing company for Saskatchewan potash producers Nutrien and Mosaic and has been operating since 1972.


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