Asia crude oil imports slip in April amid softer purchases by China and India

Asia crude oil imports slip in April amid softer purchases by China and India

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The strong start to the year for Asia's imports of crude oil came to a halt in April, with arrivals dropping to a seven-month low as top buyers China and India trimmed purchases, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

A total of 108 million tons, or 26.39 million barrels per day (bpd) was imported by Asia last month, according to data compiled by Refinitiv Oil Research. This was down from March's 27.6 million bpd, which in turn was lower than February's 29.4 million bpd and the 29.13 million bpd in January.

The decline in April arrivals was led by China, the world's largest crude importer, with Refinitiv estimating imports at 10.67 million bpd, down from the 34-month high of 12.37 million bpd in March. It was always likely that China's imports would pull back in April as that month and May are the peak season for refinery maintenance.

But after the strong start to the year for China's crude oil imports, there are now several question marks over the outlook for coming months, as the rebound in the world's second-biggest economy appears uneven. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dropped to 49.2 in April from 51.9 in March, slipping below the 50-level that demarcates expansion from contraction for the first time since December.

The PMI was also below market expectations for a positive outcome of 51.4. Manufacturing is one of the key pillars of China's economy from a commodity demand perspective, the others being construction and infrastructure.

The news here is somewhat mixed, with infrastructure investment rising 8.8% year-on-year in the first quarter, outpacing a 5.1 rise in overall fixed-asset investment, while property investment fell 5.8%. There is also the question of crude prices and the lag between moves in these and imports, given the time between refiners ordering oil and its delivery can be as long as three months.

Crude oil prices were kicked higher at the start of April when the OPEC+ group of producers surprised the market by announcing an additional 1.16 million bpd of output cuts.

Benchmark Brent futures rose from just below USD80 a barrel to a peak of USD87.49 a barrel on April 12, but have since slipped back to end at USD72.33 on Wednesday as concerns over global growth trumped fears of tighter supply.

Nonetheless, the rise in Brent futures, which was accompanied by higher official selling prices for May cargoes from Middle East exporters such as Saudi Arabia, may put a dampener on Chinese demand for May and June cargoes.

Russia has become India's largest crude supplier, displacing erstwhile OPEC+ ally Saudi Arabia, with India's April imports from the kingdom dropping to the lowest since September 2021. Russian crude is also winning against Saudi oil in China, with April arrivals of 2.10 million bpd beating out the 1.73 million bpd from the Middle East's top exporter.

Orbia Q1 net income falls 72%

Orbia Q1 net income falls 72%

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Orbia's net income fell 72% year on year to $80m in the first quarter of this year on the back of a slowdown in demand from a very strong prior year period, the Mexican vinyl producer said.

Lower general purpose polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices and weaker end markets in the context of the current macroeconomic environment were partially offset by strong demand in Connectivity Solutions and improved pricing across the fluorinated solutions product portfolio.

The decrease in EBITDA and EBITDA margin was due to softer demand across certain markets, particularly in Polymer Solutions, Building and Infrastructure, and Precision Agriculture.

The decrease was partially offset by higher profitability in Connectivity Solutions and Fluorinated Solutions.

"The company remains cautious under the current macroeconomic conditions and market uncertainty, including uncertain ongoing impacts of monetary tightening, exchange rate volatility, inflationary challenges and the war in Ukraine," Orbia said in a statement.

Orbia reaffirmed its EBITDA guidance of USD1.65bn or higher for 2023 and "will continue to refine its guidance as the year progresses".

The company also reaffirmed its capital expenditure guidance in the range of USD600m to USD700m for 2023, which includes maintenance spending and growth-related investments.

We remind, Solvay and Orbia recently announced their entry into a joint venture framework agreement to create a partnership for the production of suspension-grade polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), creating the largest capacity in North Americam said the company. As it is further stated in a press release, the joint venture will create the largest PVDF production facility for battery materials in the region. The total investment is estimated around 850 million USD, partially funded by a grant to Solvay from the U.S. Department of Energy for a total of 178 million USD.

Braskem Q1 main chemical sales fall sharply

Braskem Q1 main chemical sales fall sharply

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Braskem's Q1 main chemicals sales in Brazil fell 15%, year on year, while resin sales were stable, the Brazilian petrochemicals major said.

Braskem puts under the main chemicals umbrella the following: ethylene, propylene, butadiene, cumene, gasoline, benzene, toluene and paraxylene.

Main chemicals sales volume compared with 1Q 2022 decreased 15% due to lower demand in the period, which reflected in the utilisation rate of petrochemical crackers, the company said.

Main chemicals sales volume increased 6% compared to 4Q 2022 with emphasis on gasoline sales, mainly due to higher product availability for sale given the increase in utilisation rate of the petrochemical crackers.

Braskem's Q1 2023 resin sales in Brazil remained stable compared with the same period last year, the Brazilian producer said in its quarterly production and sales report.

Compared with Q4 2022, sales rose by 3% in line with the growth of the Brazilian resin market, due to higher demand for polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), mainly in the agricultural, hospital and construction sectors.

We remind, Brazil’s mines and energy ministry (MME) has requested that federal oil firm Petrobras halt the sale of assets for 90 days starting March 1. The request was made due to the reassessment of the national energy policy and the establishment of a new composition of the national energy policy council (CNPE), which is part of the ministry.

LyondellBasell takes Veolia’s recycling JV stake

LyondellBasell takes Veolia’s recycling JV stake

MOSCOW (MRC) -- LyondellBasell said it plans to acquire Veolia Belgium‘s stake in the joint venture Quality Circular Polymers (QCP), which has recycling facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands, said Chemanager.

Currently, the Paris-headquartered waste management group supplies soiled plastic waste to the recycling units, a role it will continue on an independent basis.

With full ownership of QCP, which it founded together with Veolia in 2016, LyondellBasell said it will be able to accelerate its strategy to build a profitable circular and low carbon solutions business to meet customer demand for more sustainable products and solutions.

The Dutch-owned, US-managed commodity plastics maker said it is well-positioned to continue working with its customers to supply the products and solutions needed.

"Demand for circular solutions continues to grow, and LyondellBasell is committed to creating solutions for everyday sustainable living," said Yvonne van der Laan, executive vice president, Circular & Low Carbon Solutions. With ownership of QCP, she said the multinational group expects to be able to produce and market at least 2 million t/y of recycled and renewable-based polymers.

The QCP mechanical recycling facilities produce special blends, using household plastic waste to make products such as bottles, buckets, caps and closures as well as strollers and suitcases. LyondellBasell said it will continue to market QCP polymers under its CirculenRecover brand, leveraging the former joint venture as its growth platform to enable circular solutions.

Eric Troudoux, senior vice president Solid Waste Recycling & Recovery at Veolia, said the divestment of the company’s participation in the QCP joint venture is in line with its strategy to grow its presence across the entire value chain in Europe and worldwide.

While continuing to cooperate with LyondellBasell, notably by remaining a QCP feedstock supplier for several years, Troudoux said the share divestment will allow Veolia to process additional waste volumes in in its European plastics recycling plants.

We remind, LyondellBasell (LYB) said it is moving ahead with engineering for a commercial scale advanced plastics waste recycling plant it intends to build at its Wesseling, Germany, production site together with Germany’s 23 Oaks Investments. The companies agreed to form a joint venture, called One Source Resources, that would operate the facility with capacity to convert the plastics waste generated by an estimated 1.3 million people into feedstock to make 50,000 t/y of new plastic materials.

Phillips 66 beats profit estimates as refining margins soar

Phillips 66 beats profit estimates as refining margins soar

MOSCOW (MRC) -- U.S. refiner Phillips 66 beat Wall Street's estimate for first-quarter profit due to elevated margins on sustained fuel demand amid tight crude supplies, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The company's shares rose 1.3% to USD95.98 in morning trade. Profits from turning crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel surged as supplies remained tight due to pandemic-era closure of facilities and a recovery in demand.

Margins were also supported by Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year that further tightened supplies. Realized margins soared 91% to $20.72 per barrel in the first quarter from a year earlier, Phillips 66 said.

Margins jumped nearly 71% at Marathon Petroleum and 84% at Valero Corp (VLO.N), helping the company's rivals report bumper first-quarter profits that also beat estimates. Phillips 66's crude utilization rate was 90% in the reported quarter, marginally higher than last year's 89%, while total processed input fell to 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from 1.9 million bpd.

"Refining drove the beat...We expect 2023 to be a lower turnaround year for PSX, with most of the work front-loaded in 1Q," said RBC Capital Markets analyst TJ Schultz. U.S. refiners took up major maintenance activities during the first three months of 2023 after running their facilities at almost full capacity last year to keep up with the recovery in demand.

"We ran above industry-average crude utilization, successfully executed major turnarounds and increased market capture to 93%," Phillips 66's CEO Mark Lashier said in a statement. The Houston-based refiner reported adjusted earnings of USD4.21 per share for the three months ended March 31, compared with average analyst estimate of USD3.56, according to Refinitiv data.

We remind, Five Phillips 66 refineries have been honored by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers for outstanding safety performance in 2022. The Sweeny Refinery on the Texas Gulf Coast captured AFPM’s Distinguished Safety Award – the industry’s top safety honor – for a second consecutive year. Bayway Refinery in New Jersey, Borger Refinery in West Texas and the San Francisco Refinery’s Santa Maria Plant notched Elite Gold awards, and Ponca City Refinery in Oklahoma took home Elite Silver honors.