Asia and Middle East Naphtha Market Commentary

Chemical Industry

The Asian naphtha market remained under downward pressure due to lukewarm buying interest from Far East Asian end-users for H2 May delivery clips as some crackers in Northeast Asia were shut for scheduled maintenance, sources said Thursday. In addition, an aromatics plant outage at Taiwan’s privately-owned Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp. (FCFC) has reduced Formosa Petrochemical Corp.’s (FPC) requirements for heavy naphtha and may have some impact on its steam cracking naphtha demand. FPC will not be seeking heavy naphtha for second-half May delivery, while its paraffinic naphtha requirements were still unclear after Sunday’s explosion and fire at one of its aromatics plants, a company spokesman said. An explosion and subsequent fire that broke out at FCFC’s No. 3 aromatics plant at Mailiao resulted in disruption to the link that diverts pygas from the cracker unit. “The feed into that aromatics plant is pygas produced by their cracker, so if the aromatics plant is shut down due to the explosion, then the cracker cannot run and store the pygas produced,” a Singapore-based market source said. Formosa’s cracker was heard running at lower rates due to the shutdown of the aromatics unit, a Singapore-based LPG trader said. This could not be confirmed with Formosa. One of the company’s olefins buyers said that Formosa is still attempting to run its steam cracker at 100%. Reflecting the weaker market, the CFR Japan naphtha crack against front-month June ICE Brent crude futures contract fell to $37.25/mt at the Asian close Tuesday, down from $41.43/mt the previous day. The crack was pegged at $40.20/mt at 0300 GMT Thursday. Spot cash differential for CFR Japan naphtha fell to a near three-month low of $4.25/mt Tuesday. The differential was last lower on January 15 at $3/mt, S&P Global  data showed. Meanwhile, supply continued to stream out from India. State-owned refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. was offering 35,000 mt of naphtha with minimum 76% paraffin and maximum 350 ppm sulfur for May 2-3 loading from Kochi in a tender closing April 12, with same-day validity. In plant news, India’s state-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd.’s 8.3 million mt/year Vizag refinery on the east coast is running normally after a major fire disrupted operations for a couple of hours over the weekend, company officials said. The fire broke at the continuous catalytic reformer on Thursday afternoon and was contained in about half an hour. “The refinery operation is smooth with no hiccups,” a refinery official said.

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