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Factbox: Record low petrochemical prices in Asia find few takers as COVID-19 saps demand

Singapore — Asian petrochemical prices plunged to historic lows this week, weighed down by government measures to limit the global spread of the coronavirus outbreak and crude price collapse.

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And the end to the price plunge is still not in sight as demand remains elusive amid countrywide lockdowns, with India the latest to join the list.

But there's a silver lining: The improving petrochemical margins.

"Generic petrochemical margins are projected to remain strong as crude oil price complex is set to witness historic lows in H1 2020. In our base case scenario, we expect chemical demand to pick up in early 3Q. However, a prolonged weaker demand might persist in Western markets till Q4," said Eshwar Yennigalla, senior analyst at S&P Global Platts.

The following are the latest developments in the Asian petrochemical space:

PRICES

Polyester chain

** Paraxylene CFR Taiwan/China stood at $490/mt Wednesday, after hitting an all-time low of $489/mt Tuesday.

** Purified terephthalic acid CFR China stood at an all-time low of $440/mt Wednesday, the lowest since Platts first started assessing the marker on April 7, 2008.

** Monoethylene glycol CFR China hit a new all-time low of $387/mt Wednesday, lowest since Platts first started assessing the marker on April 7, 2008.

** PET bottle grade plunged to a new all-time low of $700/mt FOB NE Asia and $720/mt FOB SE Asia Wednesday, the lowest since Platts started the assessment from February 13, 2006.

Aromatics

** Benzene FOB Korea hit a fresh 11-year 2-month low of $318/mt Wednesday.

** Toluene FOB Korea recovered slightly at $327.50/mt Wednesday, after reaching a near 17 year-low of $323.50/mt Monday.

** Isomer-grade mixed xylene FOB Korea bounced back to $392.50/mt Wednesday after hitting an all-time low of $383.50/mt Tuesday, based on Platts prices dating back to May 2006.

Olefins

** Ethylene CFR Northeast Asia was at an 11-year 2-month low of $550/mt Wednesday.

** Propylene CFR China stood at over a 4-year low of $695/mt CFR Wednesday.

** Butadiene CFR China was at over a 4-year low of $700/mt Wednesday.

** Methanol CFR China hit a new 11-year low of $189/mt Tuesday Wednesday.

Polymers

** Linear Low Density Polyethylene CFR Far East Asia was at over a 16-year low of $750/mt Wednesday.

** High density polyethylene film CFR Far East Asia recorded a fresh 12-year low of $750/mt Wednesday.

** Polypropylene Raffia CFR Far East Asia declined to a new 4-year low of $780/mt Wednesday.

** Polyvinyl chloride CFR China fell to a 3-year 7-month low of $800/mt Wednesday.

TRADE FLOWS

** Taiwan's CPC will lower its April propylene term volumes to its customer to 62% from 78% because of technical issues at its No.4 steam cracker, according to a company source. Most of its term contract customers are located in Taiwan.
** China raised its export tax rebates on about 1,500 products by 9-13% on February 20. The rebates apply to a wide range of products, including petrochemicals and plastics such as ethylene, propylene, monoethylene glycol and styrene monomer

INFRASTRUCTURE

** China's Fujian Meide Petrochemical, a unit of China Flexible Packing Group, plans to delay the startup of its newly built propane dehydrogenation plant in Jiangyin to June from May because of manpower issue, a company source said Wednesday.

** India's Haldia Petrochemicals will likely shut its naphtha-fed steam cracker in Haldia after the country announced a 21-day lockdown, a company source said Wednesday. The cracker can produce 670,000 mt/year of ethylene, 425,000 mt/year of propylene and 97,000 mt/year of butadiene.
Zhenjiang Chimei Chemical, an affiliate of Taiwan Chi Mei Corp., is planning to raise the operating rate of its 750,000 mt/year ABS plant at Zhenjiang to 50% in April from current 30% due to demand improvement, a company source said Tuesday.

** Major Chinese acrylonitrile producer Anqing Petrochemical is planning to increase the operating rate of its 210,000 mt/year ACN plant to full by mid-April, a company source said Tuesday. The operating rate was lowered to 85% from 90% since March 1 due to lackluster demand.

** China's Tianjin Bohai Chemical is to delay the restart of its propane dehydrogenation plant to around March 29 from March 20 earlier because of weak, a company source said Tuesday. The PDH plant can produce 600,000 mt/year of propylene and uses 720,000 mt/year of propane as feedstock when operating at 100% capacity.

** China's Changzhou New Solar Chemical plans to shut its 350,000 mt/year No.1 styrene monomer plant in Changzhou late this week for a 60-day scheduled turnaround, a source close to the company said Monday.

** China's Zhejiang Transfar may shut its 100,000 mt/year butadiene-rubber plant at Zhejiang from the end of March for annual maintenance, a company source said Friday.