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FACTBOX: Coronavirus affecting EMEA petrochemicals markets

London — As infection rates continue to rise and European nations restrict movement in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the European petrochemical industry is facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty.

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With borders across Europe closing, supply chain concerns are rising.

"The market is caught between a rock and a hard place, demand destruction as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the OPEC price war which could see crude oil prices below $20/b in the coming months. Supply chain and logistics constraints could result in producers having to cut rates regardless of margins. We are in unchartered territory but the risk for the next three to six months are still to the downside," Senior Manager Petrochemical Analytics at S&P Global Platts Rob Stier said.

The following are the latest developments in the European petrochemical industry:

PRODUCTION

  • Cracker operators are prioritizing balancing PE supply along the supply chain amid ample ethylene.
  • Concerns grow over recycled polymer supply following reductions in waste collection across Europe.
  • MTBE sellers utilising storage options; refrain from selling on weak gasoline blending demand, low prices.
  • Propylene supply to be affected as fluid catalytic cracking units cut rates amid gasoline prices hitting record lows this week.

TRADE FLOWS

  • Despite weak buying interest, Europe could see more methanol cargoes from Middle East as India starts 21-day lockdown.
  • Caustic soda market continues on an upward trend, as chlorine shortages cause increasingly tight market in Europe.
  • UK supply becomes more localized as buyers refrain from importing from Northwest Europe, according to sources.
  • PVC demand is expected to drop 25-30% in April due to the impact of the coronavirus on converter operations and downstream on construction projects, according to sources.
  • Demand for diethylene glycol in Poland remains robust despite the EU-wide lockdowns as the market looks to cover volumes.

PRICING

  • Polymer-grade propylene fell Eur12.50/mt Wednesday at Eur674/mt due to weak naphtha prices, hitting levels not seen since December 19, 2019.
  • Ethylene spot prices continued to slide Wednesday, down Eur12.50/mt at Eur524/mt FD NWE.
  • OX fell $50/mt Wednesday to $550/mt, lowest since February 2016 despite reportedly good demand from downstream PA market.
  • European Q2 2020 methanol CP agreed at Eur255/mt, down Eur15/mt from Q1
  • IPA spot prices soar Eur500/mt week on week, to an all-time high of Eur3,600/mt on tight supply.
  • Methanol FOB Rotterdam spot price was last assessed at Eur168/mt ($182/mt) Wednesday, its lowest since April 2016.
  • UK Virgin PET gains GBP30/mt on week at GBP760/mt on foreign exchange, consumer stockpiling.
  • Turkish polymer markets see only mild losses as activity remains minimal and market participants look ahead to April pricing.