US steam cracker margins likely to dip amid declining spot ethylene prices

12-Feb-13
According to industry sources, the spot market impact of January's plant outages appears to be weakening as turnaround completion deadlines are approaching -- Westlake Chemical is expecting to complete the expansion of its Geismar, Louisiana, Petro 2 steam cracker in late February/early March. Late February was also cited as the targeted date of completion for Huntsman's Port Neches, Texas, steam cracker, as per Platts. Ethane-based margins were assessed Friday at 43.84 cents/lb, down 0.86 cent/lb since the February 1 assessment. Ethane/propane mix-based margins were estimated at 47.26 cents/lb, 1.10 cents/lb lower from 48.36 cents/lb from the week prior. US Gulf Coast purity ethane is down 1 cent/gal since January 4, assessed Friday at 21.75 cents/gal. Gulf Coast E/P mix also declined 1 cent/gal for the week, assessed Friday at 21.50 cents/gal. Although E/P mix and ethane are typically the preferred feedstocks of US olefins producers, propane has shown to be preferred feedstock for ethylene production -- propane was the one feedstock that showed an increase week on week, assessed at 55.35 cents/lb Friday, up 0.44 cent from the February 1 assessment of 54.91 cents/lb. Non-LST Mt Belvieu propane was down 3.75 cents for the week, assessed at 84.25 cents/gal on Friday. The US ethylene spot price ended the week down 1.75 cents/lb, assessed Friday at 62-62.50 cents/lb FD USG.
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