US glycol ethers spot prices soften on feedstock pressure
US glycol ethers spot ranges moved lower on upstream pressure and somewhat tepid demand coming out of the seasonal slowdown in December.
The sharp decline in December propylene pushed the propylene-series products down by a larger magnitude, although propylene-based glycol ethers were seen as tighter than the ethylene-based material amid a slow-to-steady January, so far.
The decreases moved butyl glycol (BG), for example, down by 3 cents/lb ($66/tonne) to a new range of 79-86 cents/lb FOB (free on board), US Gulf, as assessed by ICIS.
Despite downward glycol ethers price pressure from propylene and NBA, ethylene and ethylene oxide and were flat for December.
In the meantime, propylene was drifting marginally lower again for January, and co-feedstock n-butanol (NBA) is also expected to weaken in January, pressuring glycol ethers potentially lower next month.
Rising seasonal demand, however, may counterbalance some of that downward pressure.
Glycol ethers demand will tick upward in the near term, partly on demand from the paint and coatings markets, which typically experiences peak demand in the second quarter.
Current winter storms are expected to give way to a generally milder conditions for the remainder of the winter versus 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Second-quarter planned maintenance will begin April at Dow Chemical's Texas City site in Texas. Most projects, including its upstream oxo-alcohols operations, are expected to be down 30-40 days.
Upstream, US propylene spot prices ticked higher amid recent gains in upstream crude oil and propane costs, while January contract prices remained pressured by rising inventories, which have reached a seven-year high. Contract negotiations were ongoing on Friday afternoon; talks centred on a slight decrease.
US January NBA market sentiment continued to drift mostly toward lower pricing for January, including a 5 cents/lb reduction from one producer citing upstream pressure.
US ethylene spot prices rose amid relatively stable feedstock costs and a new downstream unit that began commissioning activities in December. Spot prices remain below late 2018 levels as new capacity expected in early 2019 continues to weigh on sentiment.
Glycol ethers are predominantly used in the paints and coatings industry, though other uses include inks, cleaning products, plasticizers, brake fluids, pharmaceuticals, cosmetic and personal care products.
US suppliers of glycol ethers include LyondellBasell, Dow Chemical, Eastman Chemical and Sasol.