South Korea's paraxylene exports for January-March totaled 806,657 mt, surging 60.5% from a year earlier and up 41.4% from the previous quarter, as reported by the Korea Customs Service by Platts. The sharp increase was due to the startup of a new PX plant there. South Korea's HC Petrochem, a 50:50 joint venture between Hyundai Oilbank and Japan's Cosmo Oil, started commercial operations at its new 800,000 tpa PX plant in Daesan on January 8, Platts reported. Most of the new output from the plant is shipped to China.
As a result, South Korea's PX exports to China jumped 49.2% quarter on quarter to 762,382 mt over January-March. Tracking this, the CFR Taiwan/China PX price benchmark rose 3% from the previous October-December 2012 quarter to average at US$1635.04/mt in January-March.
But demand from China is likely to slow from April, as Chinese purified terephthalic acid producers have started reducing their operating rates amid bearish demand for polyester production, market sources said Monday. In addition, the turnaround season for aromatics plant in South Korea would likely reduce PX exports, they added. In the middle of March, GS Caltex shut its No. 2 aromatics plant in Yeosu for one month of annual maintenance. The plant is able to produce 400,000 tpa of PX. In April, HC Petrochem shut its No. 1 aromatics plant in Daesan for 30 days of annual maintenance, while S-Oil will shut its No. 2 aromatics unit from the middle of April for around 36 days.