In Asia, the premium between GPPS and HIPS prices widened significantly as HIPS prices have been pushed higher when compared to GPPS on the back of the higher production costs, as per Chemorbis. Now, the gap between Asian GPPS and HIPS has reached a whopping US$200/ton. In China’s PS market, overall demand remains sluggish despite the fact that the high season for PS applications is just around the corner. However, buyers in China are purchasing only need-based. This will ensure their cash flow amidst the measures taken by the Chinese government to tame inflation. Therefore, on a week over week basis, prices for dutiable GPPS remained stable but the dutiable HIPS range lost ground by US$10-40/ton over the same term. Despite the fact that the HIPS range softened, import HIPS prices still carry a US$180-200/ton premium over import GPPS on CFR China, cash basis.
A similar situation also prevails in the Southeast Asian PS market, where import prices weakened over the past week on the back of the lower Asian styrene costs, which lost US$25/ton on FOB Korea basis in a week’s time. Despite the firmer oil prices which hover above the US$105/bbl threshold, Asian styrene prices still indicate around US$75/ton decreases when compared to early March levels. Looking at the import prices to Southeast Asian countries, GPPS prices lost US$40/ton at the high end from the previous week while they remain stable at the low end. Meanwhile, import HIPS prices dropped US$20-30/ton over the same period. Despite this softening, import HIPS prices continue to carry a large premium of US$150-200/ton over import GPPS prices on CIF SEA, cash equivalent basis.
The main reason behind this large gap between the GPPS and HIPS prices is the higher production costs of HIPS. Butadiene costs moved up by US$150-160/ton on FOB Korea/Japan basis over a week’s time as demand from Japan revived. Japanese buyers are reportedly looking to make fresh purchases for the front month as they cannot be sure if the country will be able to recover from the affect s of the March 11 earthquake and resume domestic supplies.
In plant news, Mitsubishi Chemical’s No.1 and No.2 crackers have been offline since the earthquake and they are not expected to resume operations for about two months. The producer’s No.2 cracker has 140,000 tpa crude C4 capacity, with feedstock supply to JSR Corp’s 148,000 tpa butadiene plant, shut on March 9 due to maintenance work. Meanwhile, JX Nippon Oil & Energy’s 70,000 tpa butadiene plant located in Kawasaki also halted operations due to the earthquake. The Southeast Asian market also suffers from butadiene tightness as Shell Chemicals declared a force majeure on butadiene supplies procured from Shell Eastern petrochemicals complex, (Singapore, Pulau Bukom Island). Shell has 155,000 tpa butadiene capacity in the complex. South Korean Honam Petrochemical also plans a shutdown on their Yeosu naphtha-fed steam cracker, which feeds their 130,000 tpa butadiene plant from 1-10th April.