Plugging the Gap: Crude, Chemicals, and the Ukraine Conflict

March 30, 2022

The conflict in Ukraine is heavily impacting both oil and downstream chemicals. Here is the current situation and outlook, plus all of the chemical increase announcements we’ve seen so far.

Crude Oil (situation/outlook):

Russia, one of the top three oil producers in the world, has been supplying about 10% of the global oil supply. Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, the total volume of oil supplied by Russia was 2.3 million barrels/day to Europe and 2.5 million barrels/day to the rest of the world. The oil market was already tight, with prices just under $100/barrel. The conflict in Ukraine began just over a month ago, on February 24. Since that time, a number of countries and companies have decided to stop buying from Russia. (So far, the EU has not banned Russian oil due to concerns on the impact to their economy.) Russian oil exports are down by 1/3. This has led to a major shortfall of oil on a global scale, and further price increases (although oil prices edged lower last week due to the EU decision).

In the short term, some demand pressure is being relieved by China. China is the world’s largest importer of oil, and has recently experienced a spike in COVID cases. This is expected to reduce demand by about 400,000 barrels/day in April compared to February. However, this nowhere near makes up for the total outage, and market prognosticators believe that increased seasonal demand this summer will push prices back up over $120/barrel.

How will the world do without Russian oil?

There are several places the oil shortfall could be made up, but only one option that seems to hold potential at present. OPEC+ has increased their quotas, but in reality are still underproducing on them. U.S. is still producing around 11.5 million barrels/day, and production increases have been minimal. This leaves Iran as the potential source for plugging the gap left by Russia. IF a nuclear deal is reached with Iran, this would allow them to increase oil production by potentially 1.3 million barrels/day. For the time being, expect oil prices to remain elevated.

It is expected that by next winter, higher costs, higher interest rates, and higher inflation will lead to less demand for oil.

Market prognosticators believe that even if the conflict ends tomorrow, all will not immediately go back to normal. Western countries aren’t likely to immediately remove sanctions against Russia, and are likely to continue to avoid Russian oil as much as feasibly possible.

Petrochemicals (situation/outlook):

Russia’s contributions directly to the global chemical markets are minimal. Their largest chemical export is Methanol, with a total contribution of just 3% of the global supply. It may take some time for trade patterns to shift, and cause some problems in the short-term, but the world can make up for the loss of Russian chemicals.

Here are the chemical increase announcements we’ve seen so far:

Hurricane Ida Another Setback for Supply Chains, But…

September 16, 2021

…On a positive note, Ida was less devastating than the winter storms Uri & Viola last February.

(When supply chains have as many problems as they’ve had this year, yeah, we’re looking for the bright side!!)

It’s been a rough year for supply chains. Most recently, Hurricane Ida, a dangerous and major hurricane, made landfall in Louisiana on August 29. Ida caused widespread power outages, flooding and damage, including to many chemical production facilities. Not surprisingly, this has exacerbated the issues chemical supply chains were already facing. In addition to these primary issues, chemical plants have also been dealing with issues such as problems getting a consistent and reliable supply of feedstock materials since the storm. Although many plants experienced outages lasting weeks, the overall effect of the storm was less devastating than that of the winter storms Uri & Viola earlier this year.

Here we take a look at the effect Hurricane Ida had on some of the chemicals that were affected by the storm:

Chlor-Alkali (Sodium Hydroxide/Sodium Hypochlorite): Ida had significant impact to the chlor-alkali market, and numerous producers have declared Force Majeure following the storm. These producers had plants in the direct path of the storm, and shut down prior to the storm. Now the idled plants are waiting for raw materials and repairs. This has caused noticeable tightness in the Sodium Hydroxide market.

Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA): While we have seen some softening in the Isopropyl Alcohol market in recent months, Ida shut down 35% of capacity and appears to have halted the sliding trend.

Glycol Ethers: Glycol Ethers have been affected, as 23% of capacity went offline.

Potassium Hydroxide: The largest liquid Potassium Hydroxide plant in the world is in Louisiana and still not running due to power outage. After shutting down two days prior to Ida, it is expected to be online again soon.

Ethylene Glycol: Approximately 10% of capacity is offline due to Ida. Additionally, Ida affected nearly 60% of capacity for feedstock Ethylene Oxide. Ethylene Glycol supply has been short for most of 2021. While there has been considerable effort to rebuild inventories this year, this now likely won’t be possible before 2022.

In addition to plant closures, Ida has impacted logistics on other key commodities as well as many downstream chemical markets such as paints and coatings, plastics, and etc.

For more information about Hurricane Ida’s affect on your chemical supply, speak to a representative.

Polar Storms Paralyze Chemicals

February 19, 2021

MANY chemicals have been severely affected by the winter storms Uri and Viola that rocked the Gulf Coast region this week, including Propylene Oxide, Propylene Glycol, Hydrocarbons, Acetone, Isopropyl Alcohol, P-series Glycol Ethers, E-series Glycol Ethers, Chlorine, Caustic Soda, and Hydrochloric Acid, to name a few. The weather crisis has caused dozens of plant outages, a flurry of Force Majeure notifications, and in some cases a shortness of supply. Products are delayed as large percentages of US capacity are offline- Ethylene 65%, Propylene Oxide 49%, Ethylene Glycol 89%, and etc.

This historic winter storm in the Gulf Coast has further exacerbated an already tight situation on Propylene Oxide and derivatives- see: Rising Propylene Shifts Market for IPA, Other Chemicals. The further impact of the storms is likely to be massive on a market already at 10-year-highs, and could take many weeks to resolve.

For questions on how this will affect your chemical supply and/or price, reach out to a sales representative.

Rising Propylene Shifts Market for IPA, Other Chemicals

February 10, 2021

The US Isopropyl Alcohol market has been a sideshow of its own against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commonly used for sanitization, IPA’s initial extraordinary price leap left market players staggered. Then, just as suddenly, a dramatic slide as the need was met, that brought pricing nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Where will it end? What will it do next?

Since there are several ways to make Isopropyl Alcohol, factors that affect the US IPA market are numerous and varied… hence the wild ride! Changes in prices of feedstock materials (i.e. crude, propylene), planned and unplanned plant shutdowns, and of course, the supply and demand shifts caused by the pandemic all can have repercussions in the market.

IPA prices hit their lowest point since the start of the pandemic in the last weeks of 2020 (essentially returning to pre-pandemic levels). Since then, prices have bounced up again, on a rapidly upward trajectory. This time the increase is caused by the rising cost of feedstock propylene. Overall, propylene has nearly tripled in cost over the past ten months, and continues to rise steadily. Propylene is a derivative of crude oil, which has risen substantially in the past few weeks especially following the vaccine announcement. Additionally, it is a by-product of gasoline production, constraining supply due to lack of demand for fuel. Other market factors like planned outages for maintenance are expected to tighten propylene supply for the first half of the year, and to top things off, demand for propylene remains strong for packaging and many other derivatives.

Multiple increases have been tabled by producers, and are taking effect. Also affected by the rising cost of propylene? P-Series Glycol Ethers, Propylene Glycol, and Acetone.

What’s next? Chemical markets are very volatile right now. While IPA prices are certainly on an upward climb, we don’t expect to see the dizzying high prices we saw last spring. And although demand for IPA remains steady and strong, we don’t foresee the dramatic shortness of supply again, either.

At CORECHEM we continue to monitor the situation. For questions about how this may affect your chemical supply/price, get in touch with a sales representative. We look forward to working with you!

Wholesale IPA Prices Soften Dramatically

June 4, 2020

Notice to Isopropyl Alcohol Customers:

In an ongoing effort to keep our customers informed, we are pleased to share that wholesale prices for Isopropyl Alcohol 99% have steadily softened over the past few weeks and recent supply/demand changes have only increased the rate of change. While we are making every effort to inform our customers of exact price changes in a timely fashion, we are also currently receiving an unprecedented volume of new quote requests.  If you have not yet heard from your account manager and would like to discuss current pricing for Isopropyl Alcohol, please don’t hesitate to let us know.  We will ensure your account manager follows up with you promptly.

COVID-19’s Impact On Chemical Supply Chains

April 8, 2020 COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant impact on chemical supply chains. Here we take a look at some of the chemicals that have been affected:

Isopropyl Alcohol (Isopropanol)

Sanitization products such as Isopropyl Alcohol have experienced skyrocketing demand. Unfortunately, manufacturers are simultaneously dealing with problems that are preventing them from supplying at full capacity. While two US producers are experiencing production issues, another is having trouble with raw material Acetone supply. A fourth US producer is scheduled to restart production of IPA, but this material will take a few weeks to come online. Meeting this unprecedented demand is proving to be a challenge, and prices have increased sharply.

A concerning trend has arisen in the IPA market in these unusual circumstances. IPA is in some cases passing through the hands of many distributors before it is finally delivered to the end user. At CORECHEM, our goal is to maximize the speed of product to the end user.

Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol)

The Ethanol market essentially functions as two separate markets- Fuel Ethanol and Chemical, Food, and Pharmaceutical Grade Ethanol (Ethanol). These two markets are currently experiencing opposite extremes.

Most Ethanol plant startups in recent years have been tooled for Fuel Ethanol, creating an oversupply situation in the Fuel Ethanol market. Now, significantly reduced demand for fuel is compounding the oversupply problem.

Ethanol used for sanitization is experiencing record high demand. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Ethanol supply / demand was balanced. Now, prices are rising and supply is tight. Unfortunately, it is not easy for a Fuel Ethanol plant to switch over to creating Ethanol for other purposes.

Acetone

After years of a supply glut, the US Acetone market is tightening up. Acetone is a raw material used to produce Isopropyl Alcohol, now in high demand. Also, anti-dumping duty determinations have been finalized on Acetone being imported from five countries, resulting in imports from these countries stopping in November 2019.

Glycerin

Glycerin, a common ingredient in hand sanitizers and hand soaps, is also experiencing supply constraints and increased demand.  Glycerin is a co-product of bio-diesel fuel. Diesel fuel has experienced a significant decrease in demand, due to reduced travel and an overall slowed economy. As a result of less bio-diesel fuel being produced, less Glycerin is being produced. Also, fewer imports are entering the the U.S. market. Price increases are taking effect, and expected to continue for some time.

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) is another ingredient in hand sanitizers and hand soaps, and is experiencing significantly increased demand. Overseas plants that produce MCT’s have been shut down for employee safety, resulting in supply constraints.

Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)

Although Sodium Hypochlorite is experiencing increased demand due to usage as a disinfectant, reduced demand in other market sectors, such as downstream plastics, may more than offset the increase. CORECHEM continues to monitor the Chlor Alkali market (Sodium Hypochlorite and co-product Sodium Hydroxide) for noticeable supply / demand shifts.

Reach out to your CORECHEM sales representative to further discuss how these or other chemicals may have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

UPDATE: ITC Deer Park Terminal Resumes Operations

June 6, 2019

A fire at the ITC Deer Park terminal in mid-March affected both supply and price of several commodity chemicals. Following a weeks-long cleanup process, in which over 20 million gallons of oily water were removed from the water and tank farm, the docks at ITC were approved for use in the first week of May. In addition, rail, truck & pipeline activity has resumed.

The reopening of shipping operations at the ITC Deer Park facility, a major storage facility for petrochemicals near Houston, TX, is normalizing supply chains of commodity chemicals such as Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) and Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK).

CORECHEM looks forward to supplying your company! Contact your sales representative with questions about how this may affect you.

 

IPA On Hold While Houston Cleans Up

April 30, 2019

Oil Tanker Waits to UnloadA massive clean-up of the Houston Ship Channel has been underway since the fire event last month at the ITC – Deer Park terminal.

The Intercontinental Terminals Company is a major storage facility for petrochemicals, located on the Houston Ship Channel. Since the fire, waterways have resumed normal operations. However, according to a ‘Situation Report’ issued by the Coast Guard on April 19, ship and barge docks at ITC- Deer Park will remain closed until further notice.

What does all this mean for Isopropyl Alcohol?

Since no cargo can be offloaded until clean up is complete, both Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) and the raw materials used to make IPA are in vessels waiting to unload. One IPA producer, Monument Chemical, has declared force majeure on IPA, stating that ‘delays will be inevitable’.

For the time being, the backlog in the Houston port has resulted in vessels being tied up, further reducing or delaying additional imports. Major U.S. IPA producers have announced price increases. The disruption could take a few months to resolve.

CORECHEM looks forward to making sure your company has the IPA supply you need! Contact your sales representative with questions about how this may affect you.

More information about IPA.