Reported fire at US Westlake facility roils spot markets

13 October 2016 22:50 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US spot ethylene and styrene markets reacted quickly on Thursday to reports of a fire at Westlake Chemical's manufacturing facility in Calcasieu parish in Louisiana.

Westlake said on Thursday that that it had contained a fire at the southeast corner of the facility. According to the local Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), the fire was extinguished at approximately 14:40 Houston time (19:40 GMT) Thursday with no impact outside the facility.

As news of the fire emerged in the downstream market, US ethylene spot prices slumped by 11% on Thursday.

Front-month October ethylene traded as low as 30.875 cents/lb ($681/tonne), down from 34.750 cents/lb the previous day.

Sources said that sentiment became bearish as participants began hearing about an incident in the ethylbenzene and styrene markets, which are downstream from ethylene.

A production issue in a derivative market could reduce ethylene consumption. However, market sources said that the Thursday afternoon trade at 30.875 cents/lb was “too much” of a decrease.

October ethylene had traded twice earlier in the afternoon at 32.000 cents/lb. Bids and offers for October ethylene were last heard at 30.000-34.500 cents/lb.

Meanwhile, US spot styrene prices jumped on Thursday afternoon after news of the fire. October was talked as high as 44.90 cents/lb, after trading at 42.40 cents/lb just two days earlier.

November and December spot styrene traded Thursday morning at 43.08 cents/lb, but after the fire were talked between 44.22 cents/lb and 44.67 cents/lb.

Local media outlets reported that a fire occurred at the Westlake production site near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Westlake spokesperson Joe Andrepont told reporters that a pump seal in the styrene unit was the source of the fire. He added that there were no injuries to Westlake employees or contractors.

Westlake officials were not immediately available to confirm additional details or respond to a request for comment from ICIS.

Additional reporting by Tracy Dang and David Love

By David Haydon