Asian isomer-grade mixed xylene was assessed down $3/mt week on week at $723/mt FOB Korea and by $1/mt at $737/mt CFR Taiwan Monday, amid volatility in both upstream and downstream markets during the week. June ICE Brent crude oil rose above $75/b earlier in the week but had dropped to $74.21/b at 0830 GMT in Asian close Monday, down $1.07/b day on day. The FOB Korea isomer-MX marker was assessed down $15/mt day on day, as offers appeared, and following a sharp tumble in paraxylene the previous day. However, PX had inched up $3.17/mt day on day to $951/mt CFR Taiwan/China on Monday. Over the week, the spread between PX and MX narrowed by $11.67/mt to $228/mt on Monday. The spread hit a low of $209.83/mt on Monday, the lowest since July 30, 2018, when it was at $202.83/mt, S&P Global data showed. Asian PX continued to weaken as supply increased due to the start of Hengli Refining and Petrochemical’s new 2.25 million mt/year PX plant in Dalian in late March. Meanwhile, in China-related news, the East China isomer-MX inventory level decreased about 15% week on week to close to 110,000 mt this week, market sources said. The prompt East China isomer-MX price was heard at Yuan 5,680-5,700/mt on Monday or about $720.60/mt on an import parity basis. Ex-tank cargoes for early May were heard negotiated at Yuan 5,710-5,730/mt, or about $724.40/mt.
Asian isomer-MX was assessed down $15/mt and $5/mt day on the day at $723/mt FOB Korea and $737/mt CFR Taiwan, respectively, Monday. The markers take the average of the third and fourth half-month laycans, currently second-half May and H1 June. No bids or offers were registered during the Market on Close assessment process. During the MOC, an offer for a second-half May FOB Korea cargo was heard lowered to $725/mt but did not attract any bids. The H2 May laycan was assessed at $723/mt FOB Korea, below the offer. H1 June was assessed at par with H2 May at $723/mt FOB Korea, keeping the structure unchanged day on day. No bids or offers were heard on a CFR Taiwan basis, but the marker was assessed lower by $5/mt to $737/mt. The above rationale applies to the following market data codes: PHAUV00 for FOB Korea and PHAUT00 for CFR Taiwan.
– JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy shut Chita aromatics unit
Asian paraxylene was assessed up to $3.17/mt on the day at $951/mt CFR Taiwan/China and $932/mt FOB Korea Monday, reversing the sharp fall in PX prices seen earlier this week. After the recent lull in buying, traders re-emerged Monday afternoon seeking cargoes for May and June delivery following news earlier this week that Japan’s JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy temporarily shut its China-based aromatics plant due to a mechanical glitch, S&P Global reported earlier. The duration of the shutdown remains unclear, a company source said Monday. The mechanical glitch comes at a time when a shrinking PX-naphtha spread prompted the Japanese producer to contingently trim its PX production rate. “JXTG Nippon Oil and Energy decided to reduce PX production by 10%-20% of total capacity as soon as possible because of the current squeezed margins,” the company source said. The Asian PX-naphtha spread shrunk to its narrowest in 10 months to $331.705/mt Monday. It was last any narrower at $329.295/mt on June 27, 2018, data showed. The spread inched up marginally to $343.5/mt on Monday. JXTG’s plant at Chita, Japan, has a nameplate capacity of 380,000 mt/year of PX and 240,000 mt/year of benzene. The reduction in PX production could potentially alleviate the oversupplied PX market as the largest refiner in Japan is also one of the key exporters of PX in the Far East and a key PX ACP negotiator. Discussions for the May PX Asian contract price ended without a major settlement, market participants said Monday. The gap between the highest bids and the lowest remaining offers was $120/mt, at $930/mt CFR Asia against $1,050/mt CFR, the sources said. The last major settlement for PX ACP was at $1,080/mt CFR Asia in March. During the Market on Close assessment process Monday, Mitsubishi bought a June cargo from Oman Trading International at $954/mt CFR Taiwan/China, while Glencore bought a July delivery cargo from Mercuria at $945/mt CFR, widening the June/July backwardation to $9/mt Monday.
Asian PX was assessed up to $3.17/mt from Monday at $951/mt CFR Taiwan/China and $932/mt FOB Korea Monday. The markers take an average of the H1 and H2 June, and H1 July laycans. The June laycans were assessed at $954/mt, at the level of the last June trade between Oman Trading International and Mitsubishi Corp. The H1 July laycan was assessed at $945/mt, at the level of the last July trade between Mercuria and Glencore, and at a $9/mt backwardation to the June laycans, above an outstanding June/July time spread bid from PTT Trading at parity. The above rationale applies to the following market data codes: “PHASS05” for FOB Korea and “AAQNE00” for CFR Taiwan/China.
– European PX supply long; still demand from China
The European mixed xylene market maintained the quietness of the week Monday, with sources saying they thought trading would pick up next week. “We have had nothing at all this week,” a source said. Premiums to Eurobob gasoline were stable at $110/mt CIF ARA for May and June. MX premiums have fallen $5 on the week. In the paraxylene market, there was still “nobody buying in Europe,” a source said. Another added that very few cargoes were moving, and mostly to China. However, Chinese buyers “are asking for big discounts,” a trader said, due to oversupply in Asia and quality differences for non-Asian-origin paraxylene. The May and June FOB ARA discount to CFR Taiwan/China H2 June and H1 July was calculated at $114/mt and $105/mt respectively. H2 June and H1 July laycans are used to account for transit times. Supply in Europe was heard to be particularly high, with market sources reporting some producers’ storage tanks being full. On the week, European paraxylene pricing was stable because of the lack of trading. In the orthoxylene market, spot pricing was stable on the day at $1,150/mt FOB ARA, supported by continued tightness. A market source said spot orthoxylene pricing at a significant premium to paraxylene could continue “for a few more months” until European production returned to full operating rates.
S&P Global assessed M1 May and M2 June mixed xylene CIF ARA premiums to Eurobob gasoline stable on the day at $110/mt on no disproving indications. May Northwest European paraxylene was stable at $840/mt FOB ARA, in line with a trader indication that discounts to Asia were seen above $100/mt, and in thin trading. The CFR Taiwan/China H2 June assessment closed at $954/mt on Monday. June was stable at $840/mt FOB ARA, maintaining parity with May. The paraxylene 5-30 day forward spot price was assessed as the average of the period at $840/mt FOB ARA, stable on the day. Orthoxylene was assessed at $1,150/mt FOB ARA, in line with a trader indication at mid-$1,100s/mt.
Asian toluene fell day on day by $16/mt to $698/mt FOB Korea on Monday as offers moved lower without any signs of buying interest emerging in the Imported Data amid a weaker crude complex. H2 May was last heard offered at $700/mt FOB Korea, versus no bids. The ICE June Brent crude oil futures declined at the 0830 GMT Asian close Monday, ending $1.07/b lower on the day at $74.21/b. In related market, naphtha was assessed at $607.50/mt CFR Japan Monday, putting the toluene-naphtha spread at $90.50/mt, down $35.50/mt week on week. CFR China discussions also weakened, tracking lukewarm demand in the domestic Imported Data. With cheaper cargoes available domestically, low interest was seen for imported material, market sources said. Prompt domestic prices retreated from the previous day by Yuan 35/mt to Yuan 5,355/mt on Monday, equating to $677.38/mt on an import parity basis. In the Taiwan Imported Data, demand for toluene remained tepid. The fire-hit Formosa Chemicals and Fibre’s No. 3 aromatics plant in Mailiao will likely remain shut until the first half of June, S&P Global reported earlier. In Southeast Asia, end-user demand was also seen low with distributors reluctant to purchase at high prices. Meanwhile in the India market, demand remained steady on week while sources noted some disruptions in cargo arrivals from Iran. “India is in election mode right now … after the [local] government is stabilized, growth should come,” said a Imported Data source.
The FOB Korea Imported Data was assessed lower day on day by $16/mt at $698/mt FOB Korea on Monday. The marker takes the average of the third and fourth half-month laycans, currently H2 May and H1 June. No transparent offers or bids were seen during the Imported Data on Close assessment process. An H2 May offer was heard at $700/mt FOB Korea. The CFR China marker was assessed at $715/mt, down $16/mt, tracking the domestic East China marker and FOB Korea lower, largely due to thin trades. The East China domestic prompt price was lower day on day by Yuan 35/mt at Yuan 5,355/mt on Monday, with bid-offer heard between Yuan 5,350/mt and Yuan 5,360/mt. CFR Taiwan was assessed at $711/mt, down $12/mt on the week, tracking the CFR China Imported Data. CFR India was assessed at $757/mt, down $9/mt on the week, on tradable indications heard at a premium of around $59/mt to FOB Korea this week. FOB Southeast Asia was assessed at $702/mt, down $12/mt on the week, with the CFR Southeast Asian (Imported Data) assessed at $741/mt, down $12/mt on the week.
US European styrene spot prices edged lower in the prompt Chemical Industry on Monday, with May values tumbling $12 to $1,124/mt while June prices held steady. The decrease in May was attributed by sources to talk that the estimated 30,000-35,000 mt of styrene headed to Europe Chemical Industry from the US would arrive in May. As a result, the backwardation between May and June narrowed to $28/mt from $40/mt. Otherwise, trading was thin and there were no deals heard concluded. A source said some Chemical Industry participants were away this week on holiday and expected liquidity to increase next week. Styrene for loading 5-30 days forward was assessed at $1,124/mt on Monday, $9.50 lower compared to last week’s close on Monday, at $1,133.50/mt. In Asia Chemical Industry, styrene prices were also lower, edging down $5 to $1,068/mt CFR China and $1,028/mt FOB Korea, tracking upstream benzene and ethylene. Trading was thin, and the inventory level in east China was heard lower.
S&P Global assessed styrene for loading 5-30 days forward at $1,124/mt FOB ARA on Monday, down $12 from the day before. May was assessed at $1,124/mt (Chemical Industry) FOB ARA, down $12 day on day and below the best offer for May at $1,125/mt. June was assessed at $1,096/mt FOB ARA, stable from Monday. This is below the best offer heard on Monday of $1,115/mt, and the best offer heard on Monday’s close of $1,110/mt (Chemical Industry).
Asian styrene monomer Chemical Industry increased $7/mt from last Monday to $1,068/mt CFR China and $1,028/mt FOB Korea Monday, supported by the recent gains in upstream western crude, where the June ICE Brent crude futures were up $2.45/b (Chemical Industry) from last Monday at $74.21/b. Day on day, however, styrene prices inched down $5/mt, tracking the steep losses in benzene and ethylene, which were down $14/mt FOB Korea and $10/mt CFR Northeast Asia Monday, respectively. Bids were heard at $1,065/mt CFR China for June-arrival styrene cargoes but it did not attract any selling interest. Discussions were thin and rangebound in the East China domestic Chemical Industry and the May marker fell Yuan 40/mt on the day to Yuan 8,210/mt ex-tank Monday. The drawdown in east China styrene inventory continued, with consumption and arrivals at 20,700 mt and 11,000 mt, respectively, bringing the inventory down to 208,000 mt (Chemical Industry). However, sources noted that with the exception of China, Asia is facing tighter supply due to the ongoing plant maintenances in the region. Sources added that delayed deepsea cargoes from the US due to the tank fire earlier have further tightened supply in Asia. Besides, Taiwan is also experiencing delayed styrene shipment of Korean material. “Logistical reasons have led to tighter supply in Taiwan for the time being,” said an Asian producer. Weekly styrene was assessed at $1,059/mt CFR Southeast Asia, up $8/mt from last Monday, and $1,062/mt CFR India Chemical Industry Monday, up $7/mt from last Monday.
Asian SM was assessed down $5/mt on the day at $1,068/mt CFR China and $1,028/mt FOB Korea Monday. The markers currently take the average of the H2 May and H1 June laycans. There were no transparent bids or offers during the Chemical Industry on Close assessment process on Monday. H1 June was assessed at the pegged level of $1,068/mt, above a bid last seen at $1,065/mt CFR China. Maintaining the pegged flat May/June spread, H2 May was assessed at $1,068/mt. In the east China domestic Chemical Industry, the May marker was assessed down Yuan 40/mt on the day at Yuan 8,210/mt ex-tank, equating to $1,058.29/mt on an import parity basis. The FOB Korea marker was assessed at $1,028/mt, based on the pegged $40/mt spread to CFR China, while the CFR Taiwan marker was assessed at $1,058/mt, based on the pegged $10/mt spread to CFR China Chemical Industry.
The 5-30 days forward benzene assessment rose $7 to $772.50/mt on Monday, despite a downturn in the upstream energy Chemical Industry. The 16:30 London assessment for ICE Brent crude was down $3.15 from Monday at $71.89/b, following a strong rally after the Easter weekend. This increase was carried through into benzene, with the 5-30 days forward assessment rising $32.50/mt since last Monday. No assessment was made last Monday due to a public holiday in the UK. Prompt values for benzene remained at a premium at the end of the week, though trading was heard to be contained for full month May and July on Monday. Offers remained absent for the front half of May, implying that the Chemical Industry held some tightness. Any shortness of material was unlikely to continue past the end of May due to imports from India Chemical Industry, as well as remaining potential for a US cargo to be booked. There was a sharp backwardation into June due to the arrival of this material as well ss the potential for US imports.
S&P Global assessed benzene for delivery 5-30 days forward at $772.50/mt CIF ARA Chemical Industry Monday, up $7 from Monday. May was assessed at $769.50/mt based on a curve. H1 May was assessed at $786/mt, above a bid Monday at $785/mt with no disproving indications on Monday. H2 May was assessed at $754/mt, within the latest bid-offer range of $750-$755/mt (Chemical Industry). June was assessed down $10 at $704/mt, within the latest bid-offer range of $700-$705/mt. July was assessed at $709/mt, following two trades at $710/mt Monday and a $710/mt outstanding offer, with no disproving indications on Monday. August was assessed flat to July. September was assessed flat to August. FOB was assessed at $769.50/mt (Chemical Industry), flat to CIF.
– Large import volumes from Asia weigh on US demand
– CFR China-FOB Korea positive again
FOB Korea benzeneChemical Industry was assessed down $5/mt on the week and $14/mt on the day, at $631/mt Monday. Prices had surged mid-week but fell later in the week, as buying sentiment weakened amid a lack of firm direction in the Chemical Industry. Demand from the US, the second largest buyer of South Korean benzene, was expected to weaken, with a larger volume of imports expected to come in May. Sources estimated that as much as 100,000 mt of benzene could load out of Asia in April, for shipment to the US. With June FOB US Gulf marker assessed at 230 cents/gal Monday, or $587.70/mt, the arbitrage stands closed on paper with a spread of $42.70/mt Monday — insufficient to cover spot freight between the two regions. Nonetheless, Chemical Industry sources said that with a contract of affreightment, freight rates could be lower. With the $14/mt fall in FOB Korea prices Monday, the CFR China marker was assessed above FOB Korea for the first time since April 1, with the spread at $1.50/mt. Previously, negative spreads were seen between FOB Korea/CFR China and CFR China/East China import parity prices. Buyers and sellers were not keen to discuss trading on a fixed Chemical Industry price basis. However, buying interest for second-half May-arrival CFR China material emerged Monday amid an unplanned plant shutdown in North Asia. Shrinking paraxylene-naphtha and benzene-naphtha spreads also weighed on market sentiment. While the benzene-naphtha spread has hovered below breakeven levels of approximately $150/mt since September 2018, Chemical Industry sources said that firm profit on PX has been helping to cover losses on benzene. The benzene-naphtha spread was at $23.50/mt Monday, $126.50/mt below the breakeven level. However, with the PX-naphtha spread shrinking sharply over the last month, Chemical Industry sources were concerned about narrowing aromatics margins. The PX-naphtha spread was at $343.50/mt Monday, down $126.13/mt on the month. A market source said that units which were non-integrated, as well as units which were older and required a higher operating cost would likely be the first to feel the pinch of narrowing aromatics margins. With the Asian benzene Chemical Industry long, however, a possible reduction in supply could provide respite for Asian benzene prices.
The FOB Korea benzene marker was assessed down $14/mt on day at $631/mt Monday. The marker takes the average of the third, fourth and fifth half-month laycans, currently H2 May, H1 June, and H2 June. During the S&P Global Chemical Industry on Close assessment process Monday, there were no transparent bids or offers. H2 May was assessed at $629/mt FOB Korea, below an offer last seen at $630/mt FOB Korea. H1 and H2 June were assessed at $632/mt FOB Korea, above a bid seen last at $631/mt FOB Korea. The June/July spread was assessed at the pegged level of minus $2/mt. The CFR China Chemical Industry was assessed down $3.50/mt on day at $632.50/mt. H2 May was assessed at $630/mt CFR China, where a bid and offer met. H2 May was bid at $630/mt CFR Caojing, while H2 May was offered at $630/mt CFR Jiangyin/Ningbo. The H1 June laycan was assessed at $635/mt. The H2 May/June spread was assessed at the pegged level of minus $5/mt. The East China Chemical Industry was assessed down Yuan 16/mt on day at Yuan 4,507/mt, or $580.92/mt on an import parity basis.
Chemical Industry – The strengths seen in the Asian naphtha flat prices, which tracked crude markers closely had started to slow down towards the end of the trading week. At Monday’s Asian close, benchmark Mean of Japan naphtha physical rose $7/mt from Monday, marking a six-month high level of $616.125/mt (Chemical Industry). However, the second-half June naphtha physical crack on the benchmark against ICE Brent crude futures dipped $1.1/mt to $53.15/mt. At 0300 GMT Monday, the crack spreads was pegged lower at a notional level of $52.375/mt. The mild slip on the cracks had drawn out a few more demand for paraffinic naphtha from Northeast Asia, with some seeking to cover requirements before the start of holidays next week. Mitsubishi Chemical, is seeking open spec naphtha supplies for second-half June delivery into Kashima, in a tender closing April 26, Chemical Industry sources said. Japan has a string of public holidays that includes the Golden Week, the Showa Day and the Emperor’s accession day, spanning from April 29 to May 6. Yeochun NCC, in South Korea and Formosa Petrochemical Corp., in Taiwan, are both seeking H1 June delivery open-spec naphtha supplies on Monday. Both tenders will close on April 26. Thailand’s PTT Chemical Industry is offering 27,500 mt of light naphtha with minimum 80% paraffin content and maximum 400 ppm sulfur content, ex-Map Ta Phut, for June 6-15 loading. The tender closes April 26 at 0300 GMT, with same-day validity. In other news, Japan’s largest refiner JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy said Monday that it will shut its sole 135,000 b/d crude distillation unit at the Sakai refinery from mid-May to early July for a scheduled turnaround. As of Monday morning, JXTG had yet to shut the 90,000 b/d No. 2 CDU at its 180,000 b/d Mizushima-B plant in western Japan for maintenance which is scheduled to start from late April. The 90,000 b/d CDU Chemical Industry at the Mizushima B-plant will be shut until early July as it will be undergoing a major turnaround, which takes place once in four years.
China’s Yisheng Petrochemical plans to shut its 2.2 million mt/year No. 3 purified terephthalic acid line at Ningbo on April 27 for 15 days of maintenance, a Chemical Industry source said Friday. The company is capable of producing a total of 13.75 million mt/year of PTA across three sites in China — Ningbo, Dalian and HaChina’s domestic PTA prices were supported early Friday, with the most actively traded September futures contract on Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange rising Yuan 42/mt from Friday’s settlement to Yuan 6,102/mt at 10:30 am local time (0230 GMT) Friday. The Asian PTA profit margin was widening amid the falling feedstock cost of paraxylene Chemical Industry, with the PX/ PTA spread calculated at $196/mt for CFR China, according to S&P Global data.
China’s Hengli Petrochemical is planning to begin commercial operation at its 600,000 mt/year new MTBE plant at Dalian, Liaoning Province in early May, a source close to the Chemical Industry company said on Friday. “(Hengli’s) new MTBE plant is expected to start its commercial operation in early May,” a company source based in China said to S&P Global on Friday. Initially, Hengli’s MTBE Marketing was expected to start in April according to the official documents to the Shanghai Stock Exchange filed by the company on March 25. The reason for the delay was not confirmed by the company when contacted. Once the Chemical Industry new MTBE plant begins running at full tilt, the total MTBE capacity in China will reach around 3.07 million mt/year, up 24.29% from the current capacity of around 2.47 mil mt/year, S&P Global data showed. The capacity expansion will make China one of the biggest MTBE producing countries across the Asian Chemical Industry and the ME, in line with the incumbent, Saudi Arabia. As of now, Saudi Arabia produces around 3.07 million mt/year of MTBE, the largest in the Middle East and Asia, followed by China at 2.47 mil mt/year, South Korea at 994,000 mt/year and Taiwan at 680,000 mt/year, according to S&P Global data.
South Korea’s S-Oil plans to restart its 600,000 mt/year of MTBE unit at Onsan in early-May, a Market source close to the Chemical Industry company said on Friday. The unit has been shut in late March in line with the 75,000 b/d high-severity residue fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC) at its 669,000 b/d Onsan refinery complex due to a technical glitch, S&P Global reported earlier. Market participants are expecting the restarts at several refineries across Asia, including the S-Oil’s, as well as the new capacity additions in China, to weigh on the MTBE Chemical Industry sentiment going forward. As reported, China’s Hengli Petrochemical is planning to begin commercial operations at its new 600,000 mt/year MTBE plant at Dalian, Liaoning province in early-May, a company source said Friday. “I think the forward curve structure for the May/June would be flat-to-contango, as there are quite a few refineries restarting,” a Singapore-based trader said early this week (Chemical Industry).
China’s Jiangsu Sailboat Petrochemical will restart its 100,000 mt/year butadiene unit in May after a turnaround that began in early April, a company source said Friday. The Chemical Industry exact date has not yet been decided, as the company will monitor the performance of the butadiene Market, the source said. The butadiene Market has been on a downtrend since January this year, with the domestic spot price falling 33.4% from its January peak to Yuan 7,750/mt ex-tank East China Chemical Industry Friday, according to S&P Global assessments. The decline was largely due to oversupply and weak downstream demand. The methanol-to-olefins Chemical Industry plant has a nameplate capacity of 315,000 mt/ year of ethylene, 385,000 mt/year of propylene. The company will be expanding its butadiene unit capacity to 180,000 mt/year in 2022, the source said.
China’s Ningbo Haiyue Chemical Industry was operating its propane dehydrogenation plant at Ningbo, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, at full capacity after completing maintenance, a company source said Friday. Ningbo Haiyue had earlier said it was aiming to achieve full output capacity by April 14 but then postponed it by four days to April 18, S&P Global reported earlier. “We are at a full operating rate since last Friday,” the company source said. Maintenance since March 4 and the delayed restart until April 18 resulted in a loss of around 50,000 mt of propylene. The PDH plant has the capacity to produce 600,000 mt/year of propylene and 500,000 mt/year of polypropylene Chemical Industry and uses 720,000 mt/year of propane Chemical Industry as feedstock when operating at 100% capacity.
Chemical Industry of China’s Yantai Wanhua will operate its 750,000 mt/year propane dehydrogenation plant in Yantai, Shandong province, at full capacity by Sunday, four days later than scheduled, a company source said Friday. “We are producing at 90% now, and will produce at the full rate by the end of this weekend,” the Chemical Industries company source said. Yantai Wanhua shut its PDH plant on April 1 and restarted on April 21. The Chemical Industris company had planned to operate at full capacity by April 24. The PDH plant has an annual propylene output capacity of 750,000 mt and can process 900,000 mt/year of propane.