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Feedstock supply concerns in Asia olefins/polymers market after Saudi attack

Singapore — Feedstock supply concerns are looming in Asian olefins and polymers markets following the recent attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, market sources said Monday.

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Several petrochemical companies announced feedstock supply disruptions over the weekend following the attack. These companies are: Saudi International Petrochemical Company, or Sipchem, Advanced Petrochemical Company, National Industrialization Co, or Tasnee, Yanbu National Petrochemical Company, or Yansab, Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Company and Saudi Basic Industries Corp, or Sabic.

The companies announced feedstock supply disruptions of around 30%-50%.

Saudi Arabia is a key global player in ethylene and ethylene derivatives as most petrochemical firms in the country use ethane as a key feedstock, which has high production yield of ethylene.

Saudi Arabia has a combined capacity to produce 17.5 million mt/year of ethylene, or around 9% of total global capacity, according to industry sources.

The kingdom has a combined polyethylene production capacity of around 9 million mt/year, or around 8% of global capacity.

Saudi Arabia is also a key methanol exporter to Asia, with 6.55 million mt/year of methanol capacity.

According to China Customs, Saudi Arabia exported around 795,493 mt of methanol to China in 2018, or around 11% of China's total methanol imports.

Drone attacks on Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq processing facility and the Khurais field on Saturday morning have led to production cuts of around 5.7 million b/d, or half of the company's production capacity, according to the kingdom's Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

CHINA FUTURES UP

In response to the incident, petrochemical futures on olefins and polymers listed in China moved up.

China's monoethylene glycol futures have shown the most steep increase Monday morning. On Monday, trading on MEG futures was suspended on China's Dalian Commodity Exchange as a price increase in the morning exceeded its daily limit. Some market sources estimated that MEG production from Saudi Arabia would be cut by 30%.

Polymers futures -- such as polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC -- on China's Dalian Commodity Exchange also rose Yuan 120-240/mt Monday morning.

Methanol futures on Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange in China rose Yuan 90-100/mt in the morning as well, which also pushed up physical market by Yuan 60-90/mt.

ETHYLENE SPOT PRICES STABLE, PROPYLENE OFFERS HIGHER

On the other hand, Asian ethylene market was relatively stable this morning.

"I think Asian ethylene market sentiment would go up but it is unclear how much," an ethylene trader said.

Some market sources also said bull-run would likely be offset somewhat by an expected restart of a naphtha-fed steam cracker by Malaysia's Pengerang Refining And Petrochemical, or PRefChem, in few weeks.

PRefChem plans to restart the cracker at the integrated RAPID refinery complex in Johor in mid-September, S&P Global Platts reported previously. The cracker is able to produce 1.2 million mt/year of ethylene.

In spot propylene market, an offer rose $20/mt from last Friday to $950/mt CFR China.

Among the three key olefin products, propylene is the most vulnerable to disruption in crude oil and refinery operations as propylene is produced from a refinery secondary unit, fluid catalytic cracker.

At the same time, propylene sellers were cautious. "Till this moment, wait and see, but surely price will go up," said a source at a Japanese trading house.

ETHYLENE-NAPHTHA SPREAD IN FOCUS

Market sources are also closely monitoring naphtha market as an expected bull-run in naphtha would likely narrow already weak margins for petrochemical production.

"Bull naphtha anyway. Products from Arab Gulf to Far East ... all bull," a naphtha trader said. The Mean of Platts Japan naphtha swap was above $500/mt compared to last Friday's assessment of $468/mt, according to Platts data.

According to a second market source, Aramco Trading typically moves around 50,000-75,000 mt per month of naphtha from Yanbu, which is situated on Rea Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. However, Aramco Trading also lifts barrels directly from PetroRabigh to meet the requirements at Northeast Asia.

Aramco Trading previously placed a vessel Navig8 Pride LHJ on subjects to move a 75,000 mt naphtha cargo from Rabigh to Japan, according to shipping sources.

-- Fumiko Dobashi, fumiko.dobashi@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Kshitiz Goliya, kshitiz.goliya@spglobal.com