In March, European standard thermoplastic prices continued to rise as a result of higher costs and supply shortages across most polymer classes. The market situation changed at the beginning of April as falling naphtha costs led to very limited movement in feedstock contract price settlements. Most polymer classes were also in better balance.
Apart from polystyrene prices, most other polymer prices were largely stable.
In March, polystyrene prices reached another all-time high as styrene monomer (SM) costs continued to rise. PS prices surged by €90/tonne, in line with the rise in SM costs. In April, however, the SM reference price tumbled by €275/tonne as the supply tightness eased. PS producers managed to restrict the price collapse to €235/tonne and slightly improve their margins.
During March and April, L/LDPE prices increased at a rate higher than the increase in ethylene costs. LLDPE registered the higher gains than LDPE as a lack of imported material tightened supply. HDPE prices tended to follow movement in feedstock costs, although injection moulding prices slipped on longish supply.
The polypropylene sector remains tight due to several planned and unplanned cracker and polymer plant maintenance programmes. Consequently, PP prices have increased by slightly more than the €65/tonne increase in feedstock costs over the past two months.
PVC compound prices have also increased faster than the feedstock cost rise due to supply tightness and a sharp rise in titanium dioxide costs.
PET suppliers have also achieved marginal gains due to a lack of imports and low material availability.
Material availability remained on the short side during March and April for most polymer classes as a result of several planned and unplanned cracker and polymer plant maintenance programmes. Suppliers are having to draw down inventories in order to meet demand. The volume of imported material into Europe has declined and there are also export opportunities available.
The latest supply-related developments are summarised below:
• Swiss chemicals producer, Chemours, declared force majeure in Europe for titanium dioxide on 12 April.
• From mid-April, oil and petrochemicals giant OMV shuttered its refinery at Schwechat, near Vienna, for two months while the facility undergoes the six-year turnaround required by law.
• Fibrant, The Netherlands has been forced to shut down both of their caprolactam lines in Geleen due to technical failure and formally declared force majeure on caprolactam as of 30 March.
• An explosion on 23 March put the Ineos LDPE production plant at Chempark Dormagen in Cologne-Worringen out of order for several weeks.
• Ducor Petrochemicals lifted its force majeure for PP copolymer produced at Rozenburg, The Netherlands 23 March.
• The P9T polypropylene plant at Brindisi, Italy, operated by LyondellBasell, has extended force majeure to all the PP types produced at the plant.
• PCK Raffinerie, Germany; announced on 24 February that the FCC unit in Schwedt was offline and, as a result, declared force majeure for propylene.
• Borealis declared force majeure for propylene from its Belgian Kallo site 20 February following an “unforeseen incident”.
• On 15 February Ducor Petrochemicals declared force majeure for PP copolymer produced at its plant in Rozenburg, The Netherlands due to technical problems.
While demand is somewhat better than the same time last year, order intake began to slow mid-April as buyers were expecting further price reductions in May.
Market participants anticipate a further sharp fall for styrene monomer and a small increase for most other feedstock costs amid stronger downstream demand.