Asian polycarbonate prices may continue falling

(ICIS) -- Asian polycarbonate (PC) prices may continue falling for the rest of the year because of sluggish demand and plummeting values of feedstock bisphenol A (BPA), industry sources said on Friday.

Spot PC prices have shed USD 200-300/tonne (EUR 142-213/tonne) since early April to USD 2.950-3.050/tonne CIF (cost, insurance and freight) Hong Kong for general purpose (GP)-moulding grade and at USD 2.900-2.950/tonne CIF Hong Kong for optical grade on 13 July, according to ICIS data.

In the key China market, monetary tightening measures implemented to curb inflation have been taking a toll on PC derivative demand. End-users are being forced to cut operating rates because of tight cash flow.

China imported 969 KT of PC last year, accounting for 88% of its total consumption at 1.1m tonnes, according to Chemease, an ICIS service in China.


Spot ethylene prices are cautiously firmer this week

(ICIS) -- Spot ethylene prices are cautiously firmer this week, on the back of higher euro-based naphtha costs and more positive sentiment in the key Asian market, market sources said on Friday.
Spot pipeline prices bottomed out two weeks ago in the low EUR 800s/tonne (USD 1.120s/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe). Prices had weakened considerably on lengthening supply, because of slowing derivative demand. While no trade has been openly reported this week, sources are now indicating prices at or above EUR 900/tonne. The July contract price settled at EUR 1.090/tonne.

⌠Ethylene is more balanced now, at least we are getting more [buying] interest, another major producer said.

A third producer said cracker rate reductions are playing their part in re-balancing ethylene supply with demand, but some unexpected shorts meant that perhaps the cutbacks had been overdone.


In NE Asia supply of benzene may tighten in the near term

(ICIS) -- The supply of benzene may tighten in the near term as several hydrodealkylation (HDA) producers in northeast Asia have trimmed production or are considering shutting down units, said traders and producers on Friday.

Several producers in Japan and South Korea have shut, or are planning to shut, their HDA units as margins are in the negative territory, they added. As a result, benzene supply in northeast Asia is tighter compared with June and could remain limited in the near term, said traders. Production margins have been squeezed severely in the past few weeks as feedstock toluene values are almost on a par with benzene.

Spot toluene prices have risen by as much as USD 90/tonne (EUR 64/tonne) since 1 July and were at USD 1.130-1.145/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea on Friday morning, according to ICIS pricing. Toluene prices have spiked in the past two weeks as a result of sudden demand from regional buyers and an upsurge in WTI crude futures, said traders. Benzene values have jumped up by USD 95/tonne since 1 July to USD 1.145-1.155/tonne FOB Korea on Friday.


US economic recovery likely to continue

(ICIS) -- US economic activity is likely to recover from the current ⌠soft patch in the second half of 2011, driving healthy chemical demand, the chief economist of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Thursday. ⌠We see a recovery in most end-use sectors, with particular strength is capital goods, which is driving basic chemicals, said ACC chief economist Kevin Swift during a conference call on its mid-year outlook.

He said he expects US bulk petrochemicals and organics volume output to grow 5.6%, plastics resins at 4.7% and synthetic rubber at 5.7% in 2011. Overall chemical output, excluding pharmaceuticals, is expected to rise by 4.8% in 2011 and another 3.1% in 2012.

He compared the economic downturn of 2008-2009 to a fall into a 20-foot (6-metre) ravine. ⌠We've probably gone up 12-14 feet on the other side of the ravine, but it's been muddy and slippery, he added.

While the softening of the US manufacturing recovery in the second quarter will affect chemical demand, inventories are well balanced and exports continue to be strong, he said.
⌠US exports of thermoplastics have doubled since 3-4 years ago to 20% of output. And we see the potential of this growing much higher as the US has emerged as one of the world's low-cost producers because of shale gas, said Swift.

For the global chemical sector, the economist said he expects output to grow by 4.8% in 2011 and 5.3% in 2012.


Fire at North Sea BP platform halts production

(Arabian Oil and Gas) -- A fire yesterday on one of BP's oil production platforms operating in the North Sea has halted the company's production from the Valhall field. The fire prompted the evacuation of hundreds of workers, but BP said there was no risk of oil spills, according to a Reuters report.

"Production is shut in and there is no risk for an oil spill," BP spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo told Reuters. "It is serious when you have a fire on a production platform and the cause of this is something we need to investigate... and it's too early for us to speculate." "But it is quite clear that it was a serious incident." It is uncertain when the field will restart, Geirmo said.