Topic Page: Coronavirus, oil price crash – impact on chemicals

US glycerine markets see a slow down in demand,
while US styrene supply tightens slightly.

Chemical distributors generally had a
reasonable first quarter financially although
business in industrial sectors like automobiles
and demand for products destined for the oil
industry were impacted by at the time impending

European plasticizers players remain in the
dark about future developments and describe
complexities in a fragile market, with
conditions open to change each day.

Today the European ICIS customer and editorial
advisory board discussed the challenges their
organisations or sectors have faced because of

The world might look different as we emerge
from the lockdowns, and the chemicals industry
has to prepare for this new post-virus reality
(podcast player above).

On this topic page we analyse the
impact of coronavirus and the oil price
collapse on chemical markets and bring together
the latest news reported by ICIS. To visit the
ICIS energy markets topic page, click

Scroll down to see the latest
interactive graphics, podcasts and

to register for regular updates to
help you navigate these challenging


Tightening US styrene supply offset by
demand erosion

By Renato Frimm 2020/05/15 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US
styrene supply tightened slightly this week as
producer INEOS Styrolution kept its Texas City,
Texas plant down since starting a scheduled
maintenance in March.

VIDEO: Upward momentum in US refined vegetable
glycerine market slows as market assesses
easing lockdowns

By Lucas Hall 2020/05/15 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Watch
Markets Editor, Lucas Hall, discuss why the
upward momentum in US refined glycerine markets
has slowed over the past week.

US IPA prices see declines as supply
lengthens, demand stays

By Deniz Koray 2020/05/14 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–Isopropanol (IPA) demand continues to
be very strong in the US, although supply has
increased in recent weeks.

PODCAST: Next steps for
chemicals amid pandemic – ICIS advisory

By: Will Beacham 2020/05/15 BARCELONA
(ICIS)–In this special ICIS podcast, the
European customer and editorial advisory board
discuss the challenges their organisations or
sectors have faced because of coronavirus.

The world might look different as we emerge
from the lockdowns, and the chemicals industry
has to prepare for this new post-virus reality.

In this podcast, they discuss:

– Impact of coronavirus through 2020
– Longer-term structural changes to industry
and markets
– Can chemicals emerge stronger from this
unprecedented disruption?

Click on the headline or scroll up to
access the podcast.

plasticizers players unable to forecast amid
poor demand, volatile market

By: Jane Massingham 2020/05/15 LONDON
(ICIS)–European plasticizers players remain in
the dark about future developments and describe
complexities in a fragile market, with
conditions open to change each day.

– Approaches to lifting restrictions vary

– Different levels of demand depending on

– Spot prices under pressure

The complexities between different countries
and customers and applications are making
business decisions increasingly challenging for
plasticizers players.

INSIGHT: Chemical
distributors benefit from diversity through
coronavirus lockdowns

By: Nigel Davis 2020/05/15 LONDON
(ICIS)–Distributors generally had a reasonable
first quarter financially although business in
industrial sectors like automobiles and demand
for products destined for the oil industry were
impacted by at the time impending pandemic.

As with most industrials, the second quarter is
likely to prove to be very different.

Industry leader, Germany’s Brenntag, said that
its oil and gas business has been badly
affected by the oil price collapse and that
anything connected to automotive has taken a
noticeable hit.

Global economic toll of
coronavirus pandemic could hit $8.8tr –

By Pearl Bantillo
2020/05/15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The global
economic toll of the novel coronavirus pandemic
could hit as high as $8.8tr, which represents
about 10% of world GDP, the Asian Development
Bank (ADB) said, as countries adopted prolonged
lockdowns to contain the spread of the deadly
flu-like disease.

petrochemical shares rise as oil extends gains
on hopes of better demand

Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/15 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Shares of petrochemical firms in Asia
were mostly trading slightly higher on Friday,
with oil prices extending gains on hopes that
demand will improve as more economies ease
lockdown measures amid the coronavirus

distributors to emerge from coronavirus

By Joseph Chang 2020/05/14 NEW YORK (ICIS)–The
National Association of Chemical Distributors
(NACD) is guiding its members through the
coronavirus crisis and preparing them to emerge
from the US lockdowns, its president said on

‘Early signs’ of
crude market rebalancing, petchems to gain long
term – IEA chief

By: Jonathan Lopez 2020/05/14 LONDON
(ICIS)–Crude oil markets are showing “early
signs of rebalancing” as output cuts by OPEC+
countries kick in and some economies move to
reopen, the executive director at the
International Energy Agency (IEA) said on

Some petrochemicals end markets like those for
medical equipment and disinfectants have staged
a revival during the coronavirus pandemic, a
trend that is likely to stay in the long term,
said Fatih Birol.

“I wouldn’t think the petchems industry will be
so badly affected [in the long term] as other
sectors of the oil consuming sectors,” he said,
speaking to reporters in Paris.

VIDEO: Europe
R-PET grapples with virgin pressure, localised
demand, sustainability

By: Matt Tudball 2020/05/14 LONDON
(ICIS)–ICIS Senior Editor for recycled
polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) Matt Tudball
discusses the main topics in the European
market this week:

– On-going price pressure from virgin PET

– Demand dynamics become more regional

– What is happening with sustainability goals

Click on the headline to see the

INSIGHT: China attracts petrochemical
exports as global demand sags; inventories

By Tahir Ikram 2020/05/14 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–China’s petrochemical industry faces
yet another challenge – rising inventories and
congestion at ports – as global supply far
exceeds demand with the country’s own exports
hit hard by the fallout of the coronavirus

India offers relief to small enterprises under
massive economic stimulus

By Priya Jestin 2020/05/14 MUMBAI
(ICIS)–The first tranche of India’s massive
economic stimulus package was meant to prop up
the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME)
sector of the giant emerging market economy
amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman
announced on Wednesday evening a rupee (Rs) 3tr
($40bn) collateral-free loan scheme for the
country’s 4.5m MSME units.

Asian petchem shares fall on virus worries, oil
prices higher

By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/14 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asian petrochemical shares fell on
Thursday amid fresh fears about a second wave
of coronavirus infections while oil prices were
higher after US crude stockpiles unexpectedly

US fuel ethanol spot prices widen as
inventories fall, demand

By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US
fuel ethanol prices widened this week, as fuel
demand continues to rise. The US Department of
Agriculture’s (USDA) outlook for the current
corn crop
is for record high production,
greater exports and larger ending stocks.

PODCAST: NACD President discusses how
the industry is shifting to meet customer needs
amid coronavirus

By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)—As
the coronavirus continues to hamper business,
the president of the National Association of
Chemical Distributors (NACD), Eric Byer,
discusses the impact of the coronavirus and how
the industry is shifting to meet needs and help
the community, as well as the hurdles that

US House reps introduce relief package
that includes biofuels aid

By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)–
Four members of the US House of Representatives
introduced a coronavirus relief package that
includes aid for the biofuels industry.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus
Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) includes a
Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program wherein
the US Department of Agriculture is authorised
to provide 45 cents/gal of qualifying ethanol
produced from 1 January through 1 May 2020.

US Q2 industrial ethanol contracts rise
on booming demand, short

ByAlex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US
Q2 industrial ethanol contract prices were
assessed at a increase on Wednesday, amid
booming demand and short supply.

US ABS demand to improve as automakers
restart idled plants

By Adam Yanelli 2020/05/13 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–Demand for US
acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) is poised
to improve now that North American automakers
are restarting idled plants that were shuttered
because of the coronavirus, but lower-priced
imports continue to influence domestic prices.

petchem shares mixed; oil falls amid worries
over second wave of

By Nurluqman
Suratman 2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian
petrochemical shares were mixed while oil
prices fell on Wednesday as worries about a new
wave of coronavirus infections amid re-opening
of economies continued to weigh on investor

Philippines economy to
contract 2.0-3.4% in 2020 amid

By Pearl Bantillo
2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Philippine
economy is expected to contract by 2.0-3.4%
this year, reversing a 6.0% growth in 2019, as
the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic
could be as high as peso (Ps) 2.0tr
The cost of the pandemic on the southeast Asian
economy is expected to be about 9.4% of 2020

Malaysia’s economy set to
contract after 0.7% expansion in

By Nurluqman Suratman
2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Malaysia’s economy
is expected to contract in the second quarter
after growing by 0.7% year on year in first
three months of 2020, reflecting the longer
duration of coronavirus containment measures
both globally and domestically.

The slowdown in the first quarter also sharply
reverses the 3.6% year-on-year expansion in the
fourth quarter of 2019, Bank Negara Malaysia
said in a statement.

US chem shares
fall despite rally in oil

By: Juhi Varma 2020/05/12 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–US-listed shares of chemical companies
fell on Tuesday despite a rise in oil prices
amid Saudi Arabia’s decision to exercise deeper
production cuts.

US jet fuel
recovery uncertain as demand hits unprecedented

By: Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/12 HOUSTON (ICIS)–
US jet fuel demand is facing an uncertain
recovery as the coronavirus has halted
passenger demand around the world and
passengers remain hesitant to fly until a
vaccine is made, resulting in less travellers
and sending financial pain to the airline

Q2 will see worst
impact on liquid fuels, effects will dissipate
over next 18 months – EIA

By: Juhi Varma 2020/05/12 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–Reduced economic activity due to the
coronavirus has significantly altered supply
and demand patterns, with crude prices at their
lowest levels in 20 years, the US Energy
Information Administration said in its latest
short-term energy outlook on Tuesday.

North America,
EMEA chemicals average earnings could fall 20%
in 2020 – Moody’s

By: Tom Brown 2020/05/12 LONDON
(ICIS)–Average chemicals sector earnings in
North America and Europe, the Middle East and
Africa (EMEA) could fall by around a fifth year
on year in 2020 as a result of coronavirus
disruption and the severe downturn expected for
May and June, according to US ratings agency
Moody’s on Tuesday.

The financial results season for the first
quarter has revealed that demand for many
producers in the two regions held up relatively
well in the first quarter despite disruption in
Asia Pacific at the start of the year and
widespread lockdown measures in home markets in

The downturn projected by Moody’s for the next
two months is likely to be most keenly felt by
commodity chemicals and producers of plastics
for industrial applications, with capacity
utilisation reductions or idled facilities
expected to reduce excess supply and inventory

Poland’s Orlen
purchases IPA licence and basic

By: Will Conroy 2020/05/12 LONDON
(ICIS)–Poland’s PKN Orlen said on Tuesday it
has purchased a licence and basic design from
Badger Licensing for an isopropanol (IPA)

If Orlen decides to go ahead with the
construction of the installation it would
become only the fifth company in the world to
boast innovative IPA production technology, it

Applications in the packaging, medical and
hygiene sectors – including for hand sanitizers
– have seen strong demand for IPA amid the
coronavirus pandemic, which has taken its price
to a record high.

Europe PE margins
drop week on week on higher feedstock

By: Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez
2020/05/12 LONDON (ICIS)–European plants
producing polyethylene (PE) have seen their
margins fall week on week due to higher
feedstock costs, ICIS margin analysis showed on

In the week to 8 May:

– Naphtha values rose by more than 32%

– LPG values increased by 13%

High density polyethylene (HDPE) contract
margins fell by more than 19%, co-product
credits rose slightly:

LPG-based HDPE
contract margins fell by 14%.

Low density polyethylene (LDPE) contract
margins dropped by 14%, co-product credits
increased slightly:

LPG-based LDPE
contract margins fell by nearly 9%.

Europe naphtha
prices rebound on Asia demand pull, crude but
glut looms large

By: Shruti Salwan 2020/05/12
LONDON(ICIS)–European naphtha spot prices have
revived from April lows on the back of
improving crude oil futures, falling refinery
run rates, certain demand pull from Asia, and
feedstock economics favouring consumption rates
at crackers.

However, price downward pressure persists as
deals are being concluded at double-digit
discounts for early June deliveries amid
ongoing supply glut and limited demand.

That pressure was felt on Monday, with spot
prices closing at $208/tonne CIF (cost,
insurance, freight) NWE (northwest Europe) for
H1 June deliveries, down from last week’s close
at $214-215/tonne CIF NWE.

China to waive additional tariff on 79 US

By Fanny Zhang 2020/05/12 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–China’s Finance Ministry announced on
Tuesday that it would exempt retaliatory
tariffs imposed in the trade war on 79 US
products for one year from 19 May 2020.

Importers can apply for refunding on tariffs
already paid.

Asia petchem shares tumble on virus fears; oil
up on Saudi output cut

By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/12 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asian petrochemical shares fell on
Tuesday on fears over a second wave of
coronavirus infections, while oil prices rose
on Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement of a
further cut in production.

Spikes in coronavirus cases in China and South
Korea after easing restrictions on people
movement, are weighing on investor sentiment.

US chemical stocks fall on crude oil
weakness despite new cut from Saudi

By Joseph Chang 2020/05/11 NEW YORK
(ICIS)–US-listed chemical stocks mostly
declined further than the broader market, which
was largely flat, on crude oil weakness.

Brent crude oil prices declined $1.37/bbl, or
4.4%, to $29.60/bbl while WTI prices fell
$0.60, or 2.4%, to $24.14/bbl. This came
despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement it would
cut oil production by another 1m bbl/day
starting on 1 June.

petrochemical shares gain on easing lockdowns;
oil falls on oversupply

Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/11 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asian petrochemical shares opened the
week mostly higher on Monday as
coronavirus-related restrictions continued to
ease across the region, while oil prices fell
amid a persistent glut in supply.

Arabia to triple VAT rate to 15% from July amid

By Pearl Bantillo
2020/05/11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia will
hike its value-added tax (VAT) rate to 15% from
5% starting July to shore up revenues hit by
the recent plunge in crude oil prices, while
rationalizing expenditures amid the coronavirus

The country, which is the world’s biggest
exporter of crude oil, will also discontinue
granting cost-of-living allowance from June,
according to state-owned Saudi Press Agency

HDPE pipe prices rise on robust demand, tight

By Lucy Shuai
2020/05/11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–High-density
polyethylene (HDPE) pipe prices in China have
gained ground, finding support from peak
consumption season as downstream construction
activities resume during warmer weather, and
tight supply.

Major domestic producer PetroChina hiked its
offers in north China on 11 May for PE pipe
natural colour HDPE100 to yuan (CNY)
8,300/tonne. Its offers are up by CNY800/tonne
($113/tonne) from 24 April after four rounds of
price increase.

US IPA prices see modest price declines
as supply increases

By Deniz Koray 2020/05/08 HOUSTON (ICIS)–
While demand for isopropanol (IPA) continues to
be strong due to surging demand for hand
sanitizers, prices are starting to come down
from previous highs.

INSIGHT: US sulphuric acid yet to feel
supply squeeze despite lower

By Annalise Porter 2020/05/08 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–The US sulphuric acid market has
remained mostly balanced despite a chaotic time
due to the coronavirus pandemic and despite
feedstock constraints and varying demand
requirements throughout the region.

Michigan reopening prompts firm dates
for Big 3 automaker restarts

By Amanda Hay 2020/05/08 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US
automakers firmed restart dates for 18 May as
Michigan announced phased reopening plans
following coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Michigan will allow manufacturing workers,
including the Big 3 automakers, to return to
work as of 11 May, according to an executive
order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed on

petrochemical shares higher; oil gains as
easing lockdowns could boost

By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/08 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Shares of petrochemical firms in Asia
were trading higher on Friday, tracking gains
in global crude prices on hope that demand
would improve amid easing lockdown measures in
various countries.

Asia IPA takes a turn for the worse; a first
since mid-March

By Yuanlin
Koh 2020/05/08 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Isopropanol
(IPA) demand in southeast Asia saw a downturn
for the first time since mid-March, when prices
rose by a whopping 82.6% in the space of seven
weeks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

US PET demand may be showing first
signs of weakness

By Luly Stephens 2020/05/07 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–Demand for US polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) remains strong, supported
by sustained buying activity from the end-user
segment – mainly at supermarkets via food
packaging, according to many market

construction output slumps in April, sentiment

By: ICIS Editorial 2020/05/07 LONDON
(ICIS)–Output in the chemicals-intensive
construction sector across the eurozone
collapsed in April as coronavirus-led lockdowns
dampened logistics and sentiment, analysts at
IHS Markit said on Thursday.

The Eurozone
Construction PMI index for April fell to 15.1
points, down sharply from the March reading of
33.5 points.

A reading below 50.0 points shows economic

“[The data is] signalling an unprecedented
month-to-month decline in construction activity
across the eurozone,” said the analysts.

Europe IPA prices
ease for the first time in 3

By: Anne-Sophie
Briant-Vaghela 2020/05/07 LONDON
(ICIS)–European isopropanol (IPA) prices fell
at the high end this week pushing the mid-point
price down for the first time in nearly three
months after reaching a historic high on
unprecedented demand.

Downward price
pressure is driven by easing supply issues and
a slight softening of demand.

IPA demand has seen a surge from manufacturers
of hand gel solutions and surface disinfectants
as Europe has taken on the battle against the
COVID-19 pandemic.

INTERVIEW: Chemours TiO2 capacity
expansions to be stretched out on capex cuts –

By Joseph Chang 2020/05/06 NEW YORK
(ICIS)–Chemours will stretch the timing of its
titanium dioxide (TiO2) capacity expansions
toward 2021-2022, as it cuts capital spending
(capex) on growth projects in 2020, said Mark
Vergnano, CEO of Chemours, in an interview with
ICIS on Wednesday.

US Green Plains expects China to stick
to trade agreement, make ethanol

By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/06 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US
ethanol producer Green Plains said it still
expects China to stick to the first phase of
the US-China trade agreement that requires
ethanol purchases. Green Plains remains
optimistic about China and their role in corn
and ethanol purchases, it said in an investor

US chem shares fall with oil

By Al Greenwood 2020/05/06 HOUSTON
(ICIS)–US-listed shares of chemical companies
fell on Wednesday as oil prices declined.
Prices for petrochemicals tend to rise and fall
with those for oil. In addition, chemical
producers in the US tend to lose their cost
advantage when oil prices fall in relation to
gas-based feedstock.

Europe chems
stocks fall slightly amid grim economic

By Tom Brown 06-May-20 17:31 LONDON
(ICIS)–European chemical stocks fell slightly
on Wednesday amid fresh waves of economic and
sectoral data emerging that indicated the
extent that demand had fallen in April.

Despite company share prices ticking down in
line with general markets, spot trades in
building block chemicals in Europe largely
firmed through the day in spite of economic
data highlighting the near-historic extent of
economic collapse.

Petrochemicals traders in Europe are eyeing the
continuation of easing lockdown measures as an
indicator of gradual improvements in demand.

Global ICIS
Petrochemical Index (IPEX) for April plunges to
November 2003 leve
By: Nigel Davis 2020/05/06 LONDON
(ICIS)–The ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX)
plunged in April as the impact of the falling
oil price and coronavirus-driven demand
destruction slammed the sector.

The global index stands at a level last seen in
November 2003 and is just below that in January

Each of the regional components of the global
index fell sharply month on month as
petrochemical and plastic prices fell across
the board. The index charts the largely
contract and average monthly price movements of
a basket of the 12 major petrochemicals and

Click on the headline or scroll up to see a
live IPEX graph.

VIDEO: Europe
R-PET market facing big challenges for

By: Matt Tudball 2020/05/06 LONDON (ICIS)–ICIS
Senior Editor for recycled polyethylene
terephthalate (R-PET) Matt Tudball discusses
the challenges the market is facing during May
and into the summer, including:

– Market split by views over price direction

– Recyclers facing tough business choices
around production

– Unknowns around summer PET demand levels

Click on the headline to see the

Asia petchem shares mixed in cautious
trade, oil higher on demand

By Nurluqman Suratman 06-May-20 11:56 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asian petrochemical shares were mixed
on Wednesday amid lingering worries over trade
tensions between the US and China, while oil
prices rose on optimism that the continued
easing of lockdowns will boost demand. At 03:00
GMT, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical was up by
more than 1% in Hong Kong, LG Chem slipped by
0.42% in Seoul and Chandra Asri Petrochemical
was down by 1.47% in Jakarta.

Asian naphtha extends gains on crude
oil jump

By Melanie Wee 06-May-20 13:09 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asia naphtha prices extended gains on
Wednesday, bolstered by a jump overnight in
crude oil futures as the ease in lockdowns
lifted sentiment, even as the recovery in
overall demand could be fragile.
Open-specification naphtha prices averaged at
$261.00/tonne CFR (cost and freight) Japan
basis for second-half June delivery at
early-hours session in Asia, climbing by
$15.50/tonne from the previous day’s close and
staying at a seven-week high.

Asia benzene prices up on buoyant crude
oil; demand on the rise

By Clive Ong 06-May-20 13:49 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asia’s benzene market remained on an
uptrend on buoyant crude oil markets, and is
likely to see demand strengthen further in the
near term. With the West Texas Intermediates
(WTI) index surging to above $24/bbl, sentiment
was bullish among benzene players.

US chem stocks rise with oil, general

By Al Greenwood 2020/05/05 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Most
US-listed shares of chemical companies rose on
Tuesday along with oil futures and the general
stock market.

Asia petrochemical shares, oil prices
rise as some economies

By Nurluqman Suratman 05-May-20 12:44 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Shares of petrochemical firms in Asia
and oil prices were higher on Tuesday, tracking
Wall Street gains overnight as more countries
ease lockdown measures to restart their

Asian epoxy resins afloat; demand
outlook still hazy

By Ai Teng Lim 05-May-20 09:54 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Discussions for Asian export of epoxy
resins were range-bound this week, but spot
trade liquidity may remain low until
coronavirus containment measures in the region
are fully lifted. Some May shipment cargoes
changed hands at $2,100-2,200/tonne FOB
(free-on-board) northeast Asia. Prices are
stable, but transactions were limited to small
parcel lots.

Asia ACN drops to level last seen in
2009; production cuts may lend

By Li Li Chng 05-May-20 11:55 SINGAPORE
(ICIS)–Asia’s acrylonitrile (ACN) prices have
shed close to 40% (actual 39.3%) since the
start of the year, hitting levels last seen in
February 2009. Producers have undertaken
production cuts in recent months as demand was
hit by coronavirus pandemic, and further cuts
in May could help to lend support.


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