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APIC 2016: Lower oil, weak Iranian gas hit Saudi Arabian polyethylene cost advantage: sources

Singapore — Lower ethane gas prices in Iran and low oil prices have caused Iranian polyethylene and naphtha-based PE to be more cost competitive against Saudi Arabian material, typically known as the region with the lowest PE production costs, sources said on the sidelines of APIC 2016.

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Northeast and Southeast Asian naphtha-based PE production has dropped by some 60% since crude oil was around $115/b in June 2014, to $641-675/mt, according to Platts Petrochemical Analytics.

However, despite Saudi raw material ethane gas price increases to $1.75mm/BTU earlier this year, the nation remains the lowest cost producer at around $322/mt, according to Platts Petrochemical Analytics.

Iranian ethane gas has dropped from $240/mt to $150/mt so far this year, according to Iranian sources, reducing PE production costs by about 22% to around $500/mt, according to Platts.

Article Continues below...

Meanwhile, coal-based PE is starting to lose its huge production cost competitiveness against cheap oil and gas, as it remains largely unchanged at around $710/mt, according to Platts Petrochemical Analytics.

"[Coal-based PE] was attractive before in a high price oil environment, but now naphtha is more attractive," a producer said.

A number of sources surveyed said this would lead to new coal-based PE plants being delayed due to the lack of competitiveness.

"I wonder which of the new coal-based projects would actually start," a Chinese trader said.

--Heng Hui,
--Edited by James Leech,