The litmus test for the global economy

Day of reckoning approaches for US polyethylene expansions, and the European industry

Planning for future demand in petrochemicals and polymers used to be relatively easy during the BabyBoomer SuperCycle. The team would consult the latest IMF forecast for global and regional growth, and then debate the right ratio to use to calculate product demand. For polyethylene (PE), the ratio was generally just above GDP at around 1.1x,

Stormy weather ahead for chemicals

Four serious challenges are on the horizon for the global petrochemical industry as I describe in my latest analysis for ICIS Chemical Business and in a podcast interview with Will Beacham of ICIS. The first is the growing risk of recession, with key markets such as autos, electronics and housing all showing signs of major

Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens

Sadly, my July forecast that US-China tariffs could lead to a global polyethylene price war seems to be coming true. As I have argued since March 2014 (US boom is a dangerous game), it was always going to be difficult for US producers to sell their vastly increased output.  The expansions were of course delayed […]

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US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives

US ethylene spot prices are tumbling as the major new shale gas expansions come on line, as the chart based on ICIS pricing data confirms: They began the year at $617/t, but have since more than halved to $270/t on Friday They are only around 10% higher than their all-time low of $240/t in September […]

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Sinopec’s results confirm China’s focus on employment and self-sufficiency, not profit

China’s strategies for oil, refining and petrochemical production are very different from those in the West, as analysis of Sinopec’s Annual and 20-F Reports confirms.  As the above chart shows, it doesn’t aim to maximise profit: □  Since 1998, it has spent $45bn on capex in the refining sector, and $38bn in the chemicals sector □ […]

European petrochemical output still below 2004 – 2007 levels

The financial crisis began a decade ago, yet production of the key “building block products” for the European petrochemical industry has still not recovered to its pre-Crisis peak, as the chart shows (based on new APPE data):   Combined production of ethylene, propylene and butadiene (olefins) peaked at 39.7 million tonnes in 2007   A […]