Spot propylene prices in Asia remained firm over the past week, with supply limitations pushing prices higher despite the ongoing decline in crude oil prices. Meanwhile, spot propylene prices in both Europe and the US were said to be mostly stable during periods of relatively limited market activity.
In Asia, spot propylene prices have firmed up by nearly $15/ton on FOB Korea basis when compared with the end of the past week, with tight supply being cited as the main cause of higher propylene prices in the region. Supply limitations have thus far been able to overcome the impact of the ongoing reduction in crude oil prices on the spot propylene market, with propylene prices continuing to firm up even as crude oil slipped another $2/barrel over the past week to fall beneath the $74/barrel threshold for the first time since the beginning of July. Supply is said to be particularly tight in Northeast Asia, although buyers in Southeast Asia are also complaining of limited supplies as propylene sellers within the region are diverting their cargoes to Northeast Asia where higher prices are obtainable.
Japan’s Tonen Chemical began a month long maintenance shutdown at its 300,000 tons/year propylene capacity cracker in Japan last week while Tosoh experienced an unexpected shutdown at its 270,000 tons/year propylene capacity cracker at Yokkaichi last week, although the company was able to resolve this problem within a few days and has already restarted the cracker. Elsewhere in Northeast Asia, Formosa had to shut one its 2 RFCC units in Taiwan for unexpected maintenance work. In Southeast Asia, Thailand’s Rayong Olefins has moved the date for a scheduled shutdown at its 600,000 tons/year propylene capacity cracker from 2011 to November of this year while Thailand’s PTT was running its 310,000 tons/year propylene capacity I4-1 cracker at reduced rates of around 70% after the restart date at the cracker had to be postponed from August 4 to August 13.
In Europe, spot propylene prices were reported mostly steady over the past week as most players are waiting for the settlement of the September contract in the region before undertaking major operations. The European holiday season has resulted in lower spot demand this month, although sellers were generally said to be comfortable with their inventories and feeling no pressure to sell. Most players predicted that the September contract would be settled at levels close to the August settlement to reflect fluctuating crude oil prices as well as the fact that the current spot quotes seen in the market stand very close to the August contract level.
In the US, spot offers for polymer grade propylene were reported unchanged week over week following a quiet trading week in which no spot deals were reported. Spot prices for refinery grade propylene were down slightly over the past week, causing the gap between offers for polymer grade and refinery grade propylene to widen to $292/ton. In supply news, US propylene inventories were reported 9% lower week over week.