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ASIA: The week in petrochemicals


Platts Dirty Tankerwire

ASIA: The week in petrochemicals

New York — Prices in several Asian petrochemical markets are expected to remain firm in the week starting Nov. 23 after hitting multi-month highs last week amid improved demand in China and plant maintenance shutdowns, as well as steady to firm upstream prices.

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Another key factor in most markets this week is 2021 term contract negotiations, which may take some focus away from spot trading.


The FOB Korea propylene market hit a 13-month high at $910/mt Nov. 20, supported by the unplanned shutdowns of major plants and delays to other plants' restarts. The propylene price is expected to receive firmer support this week after Japan's ENEOS announced it will shut its cracker at Kawasaki with a production capacity of 515,000 mt/year of ethylene and 300,000 mt/year of propylene for about a month from December for emergency repairs, which will likely to lead to supply tightness in Northeast Asia.


Prices of CFR China 2-ethyl hexanol prices jumped $225/mt week on week to a more than two-year high of $1,190/mt Nov. 19 as major plant shutdowns and tight spot supply lifted indicative bids and offers. Prices were expected to continue rising this week as supply is likely to remain under pressure until January, when plants are slated to restart.


Asian methanol prices are expected to remain on an uptrend this week as improved downstream demand in China and potential supply concerns from Iran in winter weigh on sentiment. Methanol prices in South Korea and Taiwan are expected to move in tandem with China's on the back of healthy acetic acid, methyl tertiary butyl ether, vinyl acetate monomer and formaldehyde demand. However, spot trading activity in Southeast Asia will likely remain thin as a number of end-users are preoccupied with fulfilling their 2020 contractual obligations, trade sources said.


Asian PTA prices are expected to remain rangebound with little change seen for market fundamentals in China. Discussions on a CFR China physical spot basis are expected to remain thin with ample China domestic supply and buyers in India likely to continue actively seeking PTA imports from Northeast Asia due to domestic supply tightness.


Market sentiment for Asian polypropylene remains firm, with high and limited offers for dollar-denominated cargoes and PP stocks in China seen healthy to low. Supply seems relatively tight in some regions of Southeast Asia, as well as in India. The January PP futures contract rose Yuan 290/mt from the Asia afternoon close Nov. 20 to Yuan 8,813/mt at the Nov. 23 morning close at 11:30 am Singapore time (0330 GMT).


Surging freight costs and limited container availability are expected to continue weighing on Asian recycled PET flakes exports, especially to Europe and the US. Some Southeast Asian recyclers are still facing backlog orders due to container delays and weak demand, according to sources, who generally viewed the Asian recycled PET market as lacking direction in the short term.


OX prices are likely to remain at a strong premium to paraxylene due to a firm downstream market, with prices and production margins for phthalic anhydride remaining firm and profitable, giving traders and producers of OX a bullish market view.


The movements in crude oil and paraxylene are likely to be the main factors to impact isomer-grade mixed xylene this week as term negotiations take some focus away from the spot market.


All eyes are on negotiations for 2021 term toluene supply this week, with a few Southeast Asian producers having clinched contracts with term lifters as South Korean producers start discussions. Supply remained a little tight on the back of lower refinery utilization rates, and participants expected the production curb could extend into the January trading laycan.


Asian solvent mixed xylene market participants are closely monitoring demand in net-importing regions this week amid signs of tapering demand and a toppish price trading range in India and Southeast Asia, with CFR India solvent-MX closing Nov. 20 at $500/mt, the lowest in nearly a month. The recent strength in solvent-MX has been slipping away as inflows of solvents into India increase and demand retreats mildly post festive season.