Naphtha cracks - the premiums/losses from refining Brent crude into naphtha, have dropped by over 5 dollars to US$76/ton. Cracks have ebbed to their lowest since Oct. 16, 2009 on concerns over demand on news of a fire that forced a shutdown at Taiwan's Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s 700,000 tpa naphtha cracker for about a month. A month-long shutdown of the cracker equates to a naphtha demand loss of around 175,000 tons. This outage coincides with already depressed naphtha demand triggered by weak petrochemical margins at a time when the market was seeing signs of recovery in the last two sessions.
However, downstream prices could go up as there will be less supplies in the market, hence some Asian ethylene and propylene traders have deferred spot discussions as they await greater clarity regarding the situation, as per ICIS. Propylene sellers have stopped offering material as they wait to assess the situation. Interestingly, Formosa has not announced any reduction in its ethylene and propylene exports, and is assessed to have sufficient inventories to ensure that derivative plants would continue running, provided the shutdown is not prolonged.
Prior to the outage, ethylene bid-offer discussions were heard at US$850-900/ton CFR NE Asia, down US$10-50/ton from deals last week. Propylene talks and deals were reported in the low to mid US$1,000s/ton CFR NE Asia, also representing a US$20-30/ton decline from levels traded a week earlier.