Engineering News

Platts: Increased US Polypropylene Supply Still Won't Meet Global Shortfall
August 13, 2014

U.S. propylene supplies are expected to return to levels not seen since 2006, but the increase in the feedstock supply won't come close to meeting the global demand for polypropylene during the next decade, according to the just-released quarterly: Platts Global Polyolefins Outlook.

Polypropylene, commonly known as PP or polypropene, is a plastic that has the widest variety of applications, including packaging, automotive components, stationary, furniture, reusable containers, disposable cutlery, toys, textiles, domestic appliance and banknotes. The price movements of PP resins directly impact raw material costs for the makers of "everyday items." 

"Shale gas exploration has given the U.S. an opportunity to enter the on-purpose propylene market in a big way," said Jim Foster, editorial director of petrochemical analysis at Platts. "While much of the propane dehydrogenation (PDH) announcements were designed to offset the lost propylene production from refineries and crackers that have switched to the lighter ethane feedstock, we will face a potential oversupply of propylene in the near future."

However, the oversupply will eventually be absorbed by increasing global demand for PP. Globally, it's estimated there is a need for nearly 18 million metric tons (mt) of new PP capacity by 2024, according to the Platts report. Most of the demand will be created in China, and much of the new PP production capacity is expected to be built in Asia. Producers in China have announced plans to add more than 3 million mt per year of PP capacity on-stream.

At the same time, there are 16 PDH plants being planned in China, which would produce more than eight million mt of the feedstock propylene annually. Of these, eight have already announced they will be using propane sourced from the U.S.

"The U.S. is positioned to capitalize on the PP shortages in two ways," said Foster. "U.S.-produced plastic, made from inexpensive shale-based propane, can be exported globally. Or, if other regions – particularly Asia – prefer to produce domestically, U.S.-produced Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) will be exported to feed those units."

Details of the development in the propylene and PP markets can be found in this factsheet, which is a snippet of the 98-page Platts Global Polyolefins Outlook report that also covers the ethylene and polyethylene markets.

The Platts Global Polyolefins Outlook, previously known as the Platts Shale to Polyethylene Report, is a quarterly report available by subscription. The detailed analysis of global petrochemical markets includes a summary of findings; comprehensive region-by-region data on ethylene and polyethylene production, supply and demand, cracker projects, plant capacity and trade flows; as well as 10-year price forecasts from Bentek Energy, an oil and natural gas analytics and forecasting unit of Platts, for crude oil and five natural gas liquids (NGLs): ethane, butane, isobutane, propane and natural gasoline.

Each quarter's report will feature updated content, data forecasts and commentary from Platts petrochemicals analysts Hetain Mistry, Max Yong and Jim Foster. The next Platts Global Polyolefins Outlook is scheduled to be released in September 2014.

Monthly information on the spot physical market prices of olefins and aromatics, the building blocks to polyethylene, polypropylene and other plastics, synthetics and rubbers, is available via the Platts Global Petrochemicals Index (PGPI) press release.

Source: Platts

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