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ExxonMobil's Q1 petrochemicals earnings rise on firm demand, supply disruption

London — US-based ExxonMobil's total chemical product sales increased by 209,000 metric tons versus the year-ago quarter to 6.446 millon metric tons in Q1, the company said in its quarterly financial report on April 30.

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The company achieved Q1 2021 petrochemical business earnings of $1.4 billion (Eur1.16 billion), up by $1.271 billion from the year-ago quarter, because of strong demand and supply disruption.

Strong petrochemical margins were seen in Q1, with performance buoyed by strong demand, shipping constraints on a global scale and supply disruptions, most notably in North America where the polyethylene and polypropylene markets were hit by severe freezing weather conditions.

In fact, while the severe weather helped to boost ExxonMobil's petrochemical earnings, it reduced overall first quarter earnings by almost $600 million because of the ensuing drop in production and sales volumes, costs of repairs and the impact of energy purchases and sales.

Despite this, ExxonMobil's total earnings for Q1 2021 were estimated to be $2.7 billion, compared with a loss of $610 million in the year-ago quarter.

Petrochemical business performance was boosted by reliable polyethylene and polypropylene operations, strong demand for packaging and durable goods and reductions from turnarounds and maintenance scope optimization, the company said.

The multinational oil and gas company also announced that it was "pursuing three new advanced recycling initiatives in the US and Europe" that would advance the company's commitment to sustainability and capturing value from plastic waste. ExxonMobil said it would start to market certified circular plastic products later in 2021.

ExxonMobil President & CEO Darren Woods said the company expects demand for its chemical products to continue to grow.

"[That growth], we think, will continue for some tie since chemicals play such an important role in people's modern life and the convenience of the modern life," Woods said at an earnings call.

However, Woods also said supply availability is expected to continue to recover.

"My expectation as we move forward is we'll see some of that supply come back on a recovery from the ice storms and some of this new capacity that was deferred will start to make its way back into the market, and that will help probably ease some of the tightness," he said. "But our expectation is we'll continue to see a pretty good market here this year for the Chemical business."