Asia petrochemicals at multi-year highs on strong crude, bullish China markets

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Key petrochemical markets in
Asia have hit multi-year highs, driven up by
strong crude gains following winter
storm-related US output disruptions, and robust
post-holiday activity in China.

Naphtha – the main feedstock for Asian
petrochemical production – was trading on
Wednesday near the $600/tonne CFR (cost &
freight) Japan mark, which was breached the previous
day to hit its highest price since December

Benzene remained at $846/tonne FOB (free on
board) Korea at midday, after gaining by more
than 6% over two days.

“All petchems in China [are] up…Everything else
[is] just tagging along,” a source at a major
southeast Asian oleochemical producer said.

Oil prices remained at their highest in nearly
a year, despite a pause in the strong uptrend
on Wednesday as industry data showed an
unexpected rise in US crude inventories last

At midday, Brent crude was down by 34 cents at
$65.03/bbl while US WTI crude fell by 53 cents
to $61.14/bbl.

Concerns about slow restoration of US
production had driven up crude prices early in
the week.

Oil and natural gas production shut-ins in
Texas and other producing states in the US was
crippled by an arctic blast last week,
affecting some 20% of total US refinery
capacity or about 5.7m bbl/day.

Since the start of the year, oil prices have
surged by more than 25% on general optimism
over demand amid global rollouts of COVID-19

In the paraxylene (PX)
, Asian prices hit fresh record highs
in the week at above $840/tonne CFR
Taiwan/China Main Ports (CMP) levels on the
back of hefty crude gains amid a stronger
downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA)

China’s May PTA futures contract spiked by
3.07% on Tuesday.

Downstream polyester
markets in Asia have improved
with the
approach of the traditional peak demand season,
adding to the bullish tone for the PX market.

In the isomer-grade mixed xylenes (MX) market,
regional prices
also rallied
on the back of firm upstream
prices and a strong China domestic market.

Spot MX prices in the FOB (free on board) Korea
market on 23 February rose by more than
$20/tonne from the previous day.

China’s petrochemical markets have been
leading the gains in
since they re-opened after a week-long
Lunar New Year holiday on 11-17 February.

Stronger futures markets in China for both PTA
and monoethylene glycol (MEG)
supported spikes
in Chinese polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) offers.

PET prices have been increasing since November
2020 amid underlying tightness in Asia-origin
spot supply and its feedstocks PTA and MEG.

In the butyl acrylate (butyl-A) market, export
discussions in China surged after the Lunar New
Year holiday, tracking strong domestic market
gains on the back of bullish feedstock
n-butanol prices.

In the glycerine market,
by Chinese buyers is strong
following the Lunar New Year holiday.

For melamine, spot indicative prices in China’s
export market
were higher so far on Wednesday
amid higher
feedstock prices, a lack of selling pressure
and firming domestic demand in China.

Selling indications were at around
$1,100-1,150/tonne FOB (free on board) China,
up by as much as $110-160/tonne than the high
end of the assessed prices in the week ended 17

In the fatty
alcohols market
, selling indications of
major producers have surged on strong Chinese
spot interest and higher raw material costs.

Chinese fatty alcohols market players have
sought to restock and replenish their dwindling
inventories post-holiday.

For epoxy
, regional prices hit their highest
since 2017, taking the cue from recent price
surges in raw material bisphenol-A (BPA) which
were squeezing producers’ margins.

On 23 February, epoxy resins trades settled at
an average of $3,750/tonne FOB (free on board)
NE (northeast) Asia, 17% higher than at the
beginning of the month, ICIS data shows.

Focus article by Nurluqman

Additional reporting by Pearl Bantillo,
Melanie Wee, Clive Ong, Samuel Wong, Helen Yan,
Joson Ng, Keven Zhan, Hazel Goh, Li Li Chng and
Seng Li Peng

Photo: Offshore oil rig in the Bohai Sea,
China (Xinhua/Shutterstock)

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