As the main trigger behind the constant rally in feedstock markets, crude oil prices continued to hover at firm levels on the Nymex after moving above the US$100/barrel threshold in the middle of February, while they indicated a cumulative spike of around US$9/barrel compared to early February as per the pricing service of ChemOrbis.
The European styrene market started March on a firm note on the back of gains during February. However, new monomer contracts rolled over from February due to the weaker spot benzene market. After moving above the US$1500/ton threshold in late February, spot styrene prices soared US$50/ton on FOB NWE basis on Friday, bring total increase since early February to US$155/ton. Apart from the strong energy complex, an unexpected production outage in the region was deemed as another factor pushing spot styrene values higher. Shell declared a force majeure on the propylene and ethylene output from its cracker in the Netherlands. The company reduced the operating rates of the cracker citing some technical issues which also affected the operations at its 550,000 tpa POSM (propylene oxide styrene monomer) plant.
The Asian styrene market also added to previous gains over the past week, with most of the increase occurring towards the end of last week. Spot styrene prices climbed US$60/ton to surpass the US$1500/ton threshold week over week, jumping by over US$30/ton on Thursday on FOB South Korea basis says ChemOrbis. The most recent values represent a total increase of US$85/ton since early February. Market sources point to the upcoming scheduled maintenances in South Korea which could reduce supply and push prices up for April.
In the US, spot styrene prices held firm at flat levels week over week, while they are US$50/ton higher on FOB USG basis with respect to levels in early February. Market sources reported that higher prices in Europe fueled by production issues led the arbitrage window to open from the US to the region. On another note, Total shut its styrene plant located at Louisiana in the second half of February for maintenance. With a capacity of more than 1 mln tpa, the plant may remain offline for around a month more for some related repairs, market sources reported.