ACC releases April 2020 resin production and sales statistics

MOSCOW (MRC) -- U.S. production of major plastic resins totaled 7.0 billion pounds during April 2020, a decrease of 2.8 percent compared to the same month in 2019, according to statistics released today by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Year-to-date production was 30.0 billion pounds, a 4.3 percent increase as compared to the same period in 2019.

Sales and captive (internal) use of major plastic resins totaled 7.3 billion pounds during April 2020, decrease of 2.0 percent from the same month one year earlier. Year-to-date sales and captive use was 30.2 billion pounds, a 3.8 percent increase as compared to the same period in 2019.

As MRC informed earlier, Russia's output of products from polymers grew in April 2020 by 11.2% year on year due to quarantine restrictions. However, this figure increased by 3.4% year on year in the first four months of 2020. According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, April production of unreinforced and non-combined films decreased to 107,000 tonnes from 110,400 tonnes a month earlier. Output of films products grew in the first four months of 2020 by 12.5% year on year to 402,800 tonnes.

US crude stockpiles surge to record high

MOSCOW (MRC) -- U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose unexpectedly last week to an all-time high as refiners boosted imports, particularly from Saudi Arabia, while exports dropped to lows not seen since November, reported Reuters.

The Energy Information Administration also said on Wednesday that refined product demand ticked up, but still remained far below normal levels.

Crude inventories rose 5.7 million barrels in the week to June 5 to 538.1 million barrels, most in history, not including the U.S. strategic reserves, EIA data showed.

Shipments booked during the Saudi-Russia price war from March and April, when the kingdom ramped up exports sending U.S. prices to negative-USD40 a barrel, have been arriving in the United States. Refiners’ imports of Saudi barrels have averaged more than 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) for three consecutive weeks, which has not happened since 2013.

Crude inventories in the Gulf Coast import-export and refining hub jumped 6.9 million barrels to a record 303.7 million barrels. U.S. exports fell to 2.4 million bpd, their lowest since November, so overall net crude imports rose by 1 million bpd, the EIA said.

“These are bearish numbers really. Crude (stocks) rose again despite being stymied by subdued demand. We are down significantly from a year ago today and saw builds in products as well,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at Clipper Data.

Gasoline inventories rose 866,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 71,000-barrel rise. Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, increased by 1.6 million barrels.

Product supplied, a proxy for demand, showed gasoline consumption rebounded to 7.9 million bpd, still roughly 20% below the year-ago period, but an improvement from recent weeks. Overall gasoline demand is down 16% from a year ago.

Refinery utilization rates rose by 1.3 percentage points to 73.1% of capacity.

The market was lower after the data. U.S. crude futures fell 2% to USD38.18 a barrel, while Brent was down 1.4% to USD40.60 a barrel.

As MRC informed previously, global oil consumption cut by up to a third. What happens next in the oil market depends on how quickly and completely the global economy emerges from lockdown, and whether the recessionary hit lingers through the rest of this year and into 2021.

Earlier this year, BP said the deadly coronavirus outbreak could cut global oil demand growth by 40 per cent in 2020, putting pressure on Opec producers and Russia to curb supplies to keep prices in check.

We remind that, in September 2019, six world's major petrochemical companies in Flanders, Belgium, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and the Netherlands (Trilateral Region) announced the creation of a consortium to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels. The Cracker of the Future consortium, which includes BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, SABIC and Total, aims to produce base chemicals while also significantly reducing carbon emissions. The companies agreed to invest in R&D and knowledge sharing as they assess the possibility of transitioning their base chemical production to renewable electricity.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 721,290 tonnes in the first four month of 2020, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments grew partially because of the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 347,440 tonnes in January-April 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Supply exclusively of PP random copolymer increased.

US refiners forced to buy diesel in Midwest to fulfill contracts

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Spot prices for diesel in the U.S. Midwest have risen this month as refiners running at reduced rates have bought fuel to fulfill contracts and make use of storage plays, reported Reuters with reference to traders.

Because refiners in the Midwest are running at substantially lower levels than normal, they have had to buy diesel on the open market because some cannot fulfill contracts with their current production, traders said. Currently, refiners in that region are running at just 75.9% of capacity, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Although diesel stocks are high, at a near record 37.1 million barrels in the Midwest, refiner demand has caused cash differentials - the difference between regional prices and the heating oil benchmark - to rise by 50% since the beginning of June.

When governments imposed stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, gasoline demand plummeted. Initially, however, diesel fuel held up, and refiners switched to produce as much diesel as possible to maximize profits but ended up oversupplying the market.

Margins to refine distillates from crude oil have tanked over the last month, falling to USD9.78 a barrel, the lowest seasonally since at least 2010, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

Diesel demand is currently 18% below the year-ago, four-week average, EIA data shows, as the lockdowns have disrupted manufacturing and construction activity around the United States, with many projects slowly restarting.

Diesel cash prices in Chicago traded at 4 cents a gallon below heating oil futures, up from 12 cents per gallon below futures on June 1, traders said. Group Three diesel, a market that covers Midwest states including Oklahoma, traded at 6 cents a gallon below futures, up from 12 cents a gallon below futures.

As MRC wrote before, in early June, 2020, Royal Dutch Shell Plc restarted the crude distillation unit, coker and gasoline-producing cat cracker at its 225,300 barrel-per-day (bpd) Norco, Louisiana, refinery.

We also remind that Shell Singapore restarted its naphtha cracker in Bukom Island this week following a two months maintenance shutdown since the beginning of October 2019. Thus, this cracker was taken off-stream for the turnaround on 1 October 2019. The cracker is able to produce 960,000 tons/year of ethylene and 550,000 tons/year of propylene.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC"s ScanPlast report, Russia"s estimated PE consumption totalled 557,060 tonnes in the first three month of 2020, up by 7% year on year. High density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments rose because of the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. Demand for LDPE subsided. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market was 267,630 tonnes in January-March 2020, down 20% year on year. Homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers accounted for the main decrease in imports.

Sonatrach becomes majority owner of Medgaz pipeline to Spain

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Algeria's state-owned energy company Sonatrach said it's become the majority owner of the Medgaz pipeline to Europe via Spain after raising its stake to 51% from 42.96% by purchasing 19.1% of Cepsa's shares in the joint venture, reported S&P Global.

Sonatrach didn't disclose the value of the deal or how much Cepsa's stake is now.
The 210-km Medgaz pipeline is also on track to boost its natural gas capacity to 10.2 Bcm by Q1 2021 from the current 8.2 Bcm, Sonatrach said Saturday in a statement.

Algeria's pipeline gas exports to Spain and Italy fell by more than 11 Bcm year on year in 2019 to just 21.1 Bcm, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics data, while LNG exports rose by almost 2 Bcm to 16.4 Bcm of gas equivalent.

Sonatrach is being asked to halve its 2020 spending budget from USD14 billion to USD7 billion due to the oil price slump, the country's president Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in March.

Algeria had already lost USD1 billion in oil and gas export revenue in the first two months of 2020 due to the fall in oil prices and the slump in demand triggered by the coronavirus, he said at the time.

As MRC informed before, in January 2020, Turkey and Algeria announced that they will jointly establish a petrochemicals plant in Adana on the Mediterranean coast. Turkey’s Ronesans Holding and Algeria’s state-owned energy company Sonatrach will take part in the project, Arkab said on the margins of the Turkey-Algeria Business Forum. The petrochemical facility is estimated to cost around USD1.4 billion, according to the Algerian minister, who also said stakes of Ronesans Holding and Sonatrach in the project will be 66 percent and 34 percent, respectively. The facility is planned in Seyhan industrial zone for petrochemical development and will have production capacity of 450,000 tons per year of polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 347,440 tonnes in January-April 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Supply exclusively of PP random copolymer increased.

Mitsui Chemicals commissions PP compounding plant in the Netherlands

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Mitsui Prime Advanced Compounds Europe, a joint venture in which Mitsui Chemicals has 75%, Mitsui & Co. 15% and Prime Polymer Co. 10%, has commissioned its first polypropylene (PP) compounding plant in Europe, said Chemweek.

Located at the Chemelot Industrial Park at Geleen, Netherlands, the facility is designed to produce 30,000 metric tons/year of PP compounds.

Mitsui Chemicals says the new plant will allow it to provide effective lightweighting solutions to automakers and auto parts manufacturers with European bases while also responding to global demand growth. The company says it will have access to 50,000 metric tons/year of PP compounds in Europe, including outsourced material.

At present, Mitsui Chemicals operates production sites in eight regions, including Asia and the Americas. In the Americas it has production facilities in Ohio and Tennessee; Mexico; and Brazil with a combined total of 440,000 metric tons/year of PP compounds. Its Asian operations are based in China, Japan, India and Thailand with a combined total of 630,000 metric tons/year of PP compounds. In total, following completion of the plant in the Netherlands and access to outsourced material, it now has 1.12 million metric tons/year of PP compounds at its disposal.

Mitsui Chemicals says that while forecasts point to reduced automotive production volume around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the global needs for automotive lightweighting will continue to rise on the back of more stringent environmental regulations. The company expects that there will be a continuous demand for PP compounds for use in bumpers, instrument panels and other auto parts.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market were 192,760 tonnes in January-February 2020, down by 6% year on year. Homopolymer PP accounted for the main decrease in imports.

Mitsui Chemicals is a leading manufacturer and supplier of value added specialty chemicals, plastics and materials for the automotive, healthcare, packaging, agricultural, building, and semiconductor and electronics markets. Mitsui Chemicals is a Japanese Chemicals company, a part of the Mitsui conglomerate. The company has a turnover of around 15 billion USD and has business interests in Japan, Europe, China, Southeast Asia and the USA. The company mainly deals in performance materials, petro and basic chemicals and functional polymeric materials.