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!