European demand for polyethylene is weak

(ICIS) -- Polyethylene (PE) demand in Europe is weak and while cutbacks are being implemented across the board most market sources see little chance of an upturn for the remainder of 2011, several said on Monday.

A series of cutbacks at the cracker and polymer level has been in place for some weeks, but some sources are now questioning whether production really was reduced enough, as supply still outstrips demand, particularly low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE).
Crackers are now estimated to be running at 70-80% of capacity, and more cutbacks are planned and being implemented at the PE level.

Dow has cut production at several LDPE sites throughout Europe and reduced output at solution sites. It has also taken the unexpected step of targeting a ┬100/tonne ($141/tonne) increase for November PE.

Most PE sources view this as strange, given that earlier announced hikes for October were abandoned within days of being announced, but the company says this move is being supported by heavy cutbacks.

Several producers said they were cutting back output at several sites but are not prepared to give details at present.


In Asia naphtha spot prices are likely to fall sharply this week

(ICIS) -- Asia's naphtha spot prices are likely to fall sharply this week, with crack spreads and inter-month spreads already weakening amid surplus, squeezed margins and falling prices for key petrochemical products, traders said on Monday.

Continued deceleration in China, the world's second biggest economy, sparked worries over the plastic demand outlook for next year. In response to the bearish situation, some regional producers have begun to rein in operating rates.

⌠The market is bearish currently. The market will be weak until the end of the year. The economic policy of China, in terms of financing, will be important, said a trader in northeast Asia.
The open-spec Asian naphtha contract for the first half of December fell by $18.50/tonne (┬13.14/tonne) from Friday's close to $858.00-861.00/tonne CFR (cost and freight) on Monday midday, partly because of weaker global crude futures ahead of the G20 summit later this week, ICIS data showed.

The naphtha crack spread versus December Brent crude futures plunged to $30.38/tonne on 25 October, the weakest since 8 January 2009. The crack spread was assessed at $36.50/tonne on Friday versus $64.28/tonne on 21 October, the data showed.

The spread between the contracts for the first half of December and the first half of January weakened to a contango of $2/tonne on Friday, as compared a backwardation of $2/tonne in the week earlier.


Three Nan Ya Plastics' MEG units at Mailiao to shut down

(ICIS) -- Three of Nan Ya Plastics' four monoethylene glycol (MEG) units at Mailiao will again have to shut down, one after the other, starting 30 November, for safety inspections, a company spokesperson said on Monday. Nan Ya is a unit of Taiwanese petrochemical major, Formosa.
The planned shutdown of the MEG units is part of the Formosa group's agreement with the Taiwanese government. following a series of fire incidents that occured at the petrochemical site since July last year, said David Tsou of Nan Ya Plastics.

The company's 360,000 tonne/year No 2 MEG unit will be taken off line on 30 November, followed by the No 3 unit, which also has a 360,000 tonne/year capacity, at the end of this year. The 720,000 tonne/year No 4 unit, meanwhile, will be shut in March 2012, Tsou said. ⌠Only the No 1 unit will not be shut for safety inspections, said the Nan Ya spokesperson. No definite timeline was set on how long the safety checks will last.

The No 1 and No 3 units that each has a 360,000 tonne/year capacity are currently undergoing maintenance. The No 1 unit is expected to come back on stream on 2 November, while the No 3 unit will resume operations on 16 November, Tsou said.

Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA) has approved a plan submitted by the Formosa Plastics Group to suspend operations at its petrochemical facilities in Mailiao in phases before resuming full operation by August next year, according to Tsou.


US October phenol contract prices fell by 11%

(ICIS) -- The US October phenol contract settled at a drop of 9.23 cents/lb ($203/tonne, ┬142/tonne) at 73.08-77.53 cents/lb FRT EQ (freight equalised), as assessed by ICIS. The drop was based mostly on the 68 cent/gal fall in feedstock October benzene, as most US phenol contracts are tied to benzene.

Most freely negotiated contracts also fell by 9.23 cents/lb, flat with benzene-based formula contracts.
That formula-based and freely negotiated contracts settled flat with each other shows that the US phenol market has softened, as freely negotiated contracts were settling at a premium to formula-based contracts during the summer.

The biggest reason for the softness in the US phenol market has been slower demand from most markets, as downstream buyers are looking to destock inventory ahead of end-of-the-year taxes.
Sources said they also have not seen the typical winter holiday buildup and boost in demand, especially from Asia.

Several US producers said they have started to adjust their operating rates to account for the softer domestic and export demand. With producers running full-out for much of 2011, supply is also slightly longer than normal, sources said.


S Caltex Co. completed a polymer compound plant in the eastern China

(Plastemart) -- South Korea's second-largest refiner - S Caltex Co. has completed a polymer compound plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, eastern China. Commercial operations have commenced with an annual output of 37,000 tons of polymer compounds widely used for making cars and home appliances. With this, GS Caltex aims to capture a 7% share of the fast-growing Chinese market for polymer compounds.