The Asian naphtha market was seeing reduced demand from steam crackers for naphtha

Chemical Industry

The Asian naphtha market was seeing reduced demand from steam crackers for naphtha with minimum paraffin content of 65% and 70%, owing to scheduled steam cracker turnarounds in Northeast Asia, market sources said. At least one steam cracker in Japan and two plants in South Korea — with a combined ethylene production capacity of 2.07 million mt/year — are idling their units for maintenance in April. While demand for paraffinic naphtha is low, supply for April delivery from the the West is also expected to dip. Some 1.5 million mt of arbitrage volume is expected from the US and Europe, compared with around 1.8 million mt expected for March arrival. “Turnarounds make demand low, but I don’t see it [market] as weak,” said an Asian trader. Despite weaker demand from the petrochemical sector, demand for naphtha for gasoline blending is looking up, helped by a strengthening gasoline market. “The gasoline market is currently very supported … demand for blending, as a result, has rebounded in the past few weeks,” one Singapore-based gasoline trader said. Reflecting stronger blending demand, the Singapore reforming margins have firmed. The April Singapore reforming spread — the spread between FOB Singapore 92 RON gasoline and FOB Singapore naphtha derivative — surged to a near seven-month high of $12.36/b on March 8, as gasoline rose on the back of a tightening in supply. The reforming spread was last higher on August 15, 2018, at $12.45/b, S&P Global  data showed. In the spot market Tuesday, some buying interest emerged from South Korea for H2 April-delivery cargo. South Korea’s Yeochun Naphtha Cracking Center issued a tender Tuesday seeking open-spec naphtha with minimum 70% paraffin content for H2-April delivery into Yeosu, market sources said. YNCC last bought an unknown volume of similar grade naphtha for H1 April delivery to Yeosu at a premium of around $4-$5/mt to the MOPJ naphtha assessments, on a CFR basis, pricing 30 days prior to delivery.

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