HOUSTON (ICIS)--US styrene spot prices have fallen sharply in the second-half of March amid lower demand for US styrene exports and falling values for feedstock benzene, market participants said heading into this weekend’s International Petrochemical Conference (IPC).
Styrene spot prices on 17 March dropped 22% from the previous day and have continued to fall since then.
Between 7 and 22 March, ICIS-assessed benzene spot prices fell by 26% amid ongoing downstream outages and lower prices in Asian benzene markets. Styrene is the largest consumer of US benzene, and three US Gulf styrene plants have outages or partial outages.
“I am sure it is to the trader’s benefit if US Gulf prices come down and allow some global trade to start up again,” one market participant said.
“I expect more deterioration in market until China gets back in game,” the source added.
The US styrene market saw rapidly rising prices during the first two months of Q1 due to tight supply. Two planned turnarounds began in January, both of which had to be extended as other problems were discovered while the plants were down.
SABIC declared force majeure on 1 February on the styrene it receives from a joint venture with Total Petrochemicals at the 1.1m tonne/year Cosmar facility in Carville, Louisiana. SABIC informed customers about an equipment failure that will impact the facility’s capability to produce styrene until sometime this summer. The plant was originally expected to be back online by the end of February.
On 31 January, Americas Styrenics (AmSty) announced that it was extending a regularly scheduled styrene unit turnaround at its Saint James facility in Louisiana until mid-March. The work was later extended into the second quarter.
Additionally, INEOS Styrolution began a planned turnaround on 1 March at its 450,000 tonne/year Texas City plant in Texas. The turnaround is expected to last for 45 days.
The three styrene units represent 30% of US operable capacity.
North American styrene producers include Americas Styrenics, INEOS Styrolution, LyondellBasell, Pemex, Shell Chemicals Canada, Total Petrochemicals and Westlake Styrene.
Sponsored by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the IPC runs 26-28 March in San Antonio, Texas.