European olefin markets moved down owing to volatile energy prices and weak downstream markets over the past week, as per ChemOrbis. Spot propylene, ethylene and styrene prices posted weekly drops under downward pressure from scant demand and comfortable supplies despite several recent cracker outages in the region.
In the upstream chain, crude oil prices witnessed considerable fluctuations over the past week. On the Nymex, crude oil futures for December deliveries plunged more than US$4/barrel to below US$85/barrel threshold last Wednesday before erasing some of their losses to end the week with an increase of slightly over a dollarl. ICE Brent crude contracts for December deliveries, which also crashed more than US$4/barrel in the middle of the week, witnessed a rise of over US$3/barrel on the week after consecutive gains in the last two working days of last week. Spot naphtha prices in Europe mostly held steady over the past week, edging down by around US$5/ton on a CIF NWE basis. Nonetheless, the latest spot naphtha figures stand US$50/ton below the levels reported one month ago.
In addition to weaker upstream costs, scant demand from derivative markets and long availability were cited as additional triggers behind the softer trend in spot monomer prices. Two cracker operators resolved issues at their plants which had caused some outages in the region. Among these companies, Borealis reportedly reached on spec output at its 390,000 tpa cracker in Finland late last week after lowering the operating rates at the cracker to around 65-70% along with its downstream PE and PP units given some technical issues. Versalis also returned to normal operations at its 745,000 tpa cracker in Italy after solving a minor problem, according to market sources.
Spot propylene prices lost €20/ton on an FD NWE basis on the week, bringing the cumulative drop to around €50/ton over the past month, as per ChemOrbis. Market sources commented that weaker downstream markets for products such as ACN and oxo-alcohol exerted additional downward pressure on propylene prices.
Spot ethylene prices were down €30/ton on an FD NWE basis from the previous week owing to the slow downstream PE market, with the current spot ethylene prices representing an €80/ton fall from a month ago. Mexican and American ethylene cargoes found their way to the region, resulting in plentiful availability, market sources reported. In the spot styrene market, prices recorded a US$70/ton jump right after Shell’s force majeure declaration on styrene production from its POSM (propylene oxide/styrene monomer) plant in Moerdijk, the Netherlands. However, styrene prices erased this significant gain later in the week to end the week with a US$20/ton loss on an FOB NWE basis, bringing the cumulative losses in spot prices to over US$100/ton over the past month. Market sources attributed weakening styrene sentiment to ample availability and fading demand.