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PE Spot Prices Down; More Contract Price Reductions Likely To Surface

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. November 2014

Though not directly confirmed, industry sources indicate that at least one other PE supplier, Westlake Chemicals, Houston, is offering a 3ȼ/lb November contract price reduction, joining Nova Chemicals, Calgary, Alberta (U.S. office in Moon Township, Penn.), in putting into effect the first price reduction in two years.

 

As previously reported, since the Nov. 2012, 2ȼ/lb decrease, PE prices have moved up 21ȼ/lb—a period during which PE suppliers have enjoyed hefty profit margins. Industry sources, such as Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at purchasing consultants Resin Technology, Inc., has stressed that North American PE suppliers will need to address the global price that is set by the price of oil and make downward adjustments, citing the quickly changed PE market dynamics that surfaced from the unexpected drop in oil and naphtha prices,

 

Meanwhile, Michael Greenberg, CEO of The Plastics Exchange, reports that the spot PE market has been pressured as availability for most grades swelled. “Asking prices in the Houston market continue to fall as suppliers chase the elusive export order. While much of this surplus material will move offshore, noting such a large delta between Houston and domestic prices, some resin will surely stick around the U.S.” Greenberg, for one, thinks that other PE suppliers will come through with domestic contract price reductions before long, in view of changing market fundamentals and the very strong likelihood of continued weakness.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bayer Exploring Use of CO2 to Make Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. November 2014

As part of its Dream Polymers research project launched in 2009, Bayer MaterialScience researchers have been exploring the use of CO2 as a new raw material for making plastics, among other uses.  More recently they have succeeded in significantly reducing the need for petroleum in a polyurethane foam application.

 

Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that the new process also extends the range of plastics that CO2 can be used to produce, according to project manager Christoph Gurtler. “For example, it is now possible to manufacture thermoplastic polyurethanes, films and casting elastomers in this way…for applications such as automotive interiors, cable sheathing and sporting goods such as ski boots,” he says.

 

The use of CO2 in this process is twofold. First, the greenhouse gas in incorporated directly into a new kind of precursor (polyoxymethylene polycarbonate polyol), replacing 20% of the petroleum. Second, it is used indirectly, producing a chemical that is incorporated into the precursor for a further 20% savings in petroleum. According to Gurtler, the technology has been used to produce a key component (the polyol) for high-quality polyurethane foam for mattresses which is near commercialization. “The proportion of petroleum in this chemical is 80%. We have now succeeded in reducing the petroleum content for making plastics to just 60%,” he says. 

 

This long-range Dream Polymers research project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research, as well as the CAT Catalytic Center, Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology. 

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Three Entities Awarded For Plastics Recycling Innovations

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. November 2014

Last Friday, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced the winners of the 2014 Innovation in Plastics Recycling Awards, which aim to highlight innovations in the plastics recycling industry by recognizing companies and individuals who have brought to fruition new technologies, products and initiatives to the marketplace.

 

This year’s winners include two leading recycling companies and a nonprofit with the mission to equip businesses with the science and resources to make products more sustainable. “Their innovations will help expand the ongoing growth in plastics recycling and make more recycled plastics available to manufacturers,” said ACC’s v.p. of plastics Steve Russell.

 

Geo-Tech Polymers LLC, Westerville, Ohio, has developed a patented process for removing coatings such as ink, chrome, paint, films, and labels from used plastics prior to reprocessing. If not removed, these coatings can impact the value or utility of recycled plastics. Independent analysis also demonstrates that the new process leaves no residual chemicals. Geo-Tech claims its process is decreasing the amount of plastics going to landfill while also increasing the number of applications available for recycled plastics.

 

QRS Recycling, Louisville, Kentucky, has established Plastics Container Recovery Facilities (PRFs) to collect plastics that local Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) do not recycle for various reasons. The company established PRFs within close proximity to numerous MRFs and equips them with sophisticated, sorting, washing, and grinding equipment to recover individual polymers. These PRFs provide a domestic market for plastics that previously were most often exported, and they capture plastics that could otherwise require significant processing or sorting equipment. PRFs divert more plastics from the waste stream and provide manufacturers with high-quality, post-consumer recycled resins, including PET, PE and PP. The company is engaged in ongoing efforts to capture PVC and PS as well.

 

GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Charlottesville, Virginia, as developed a recycling label for packaging that clearly communicates recycling instructions to consumers. The Coalition created the How2Recycle Label in response to variations in recycling programs, unclear labeling, and inaccurate recyclability claims that impeded recycling. As one example, PE bags, films, and wraps can carry the Store Drop-off Label to inform consumers to recycle them at nearby drop-off locations instead of curbside. Major companies and brand owners such as Sealed Air, Target, Kimberly Clark, Clorox, and several others use the Store Drop-off Label on their products, which could significantly increase plastic film recycling.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

Left-to-Right: Craig Jung, Brokerage, QRS Recycling; Kelly Lahvic, Project Associate, GreenBlue; Gordon Jones, Director of Manufacturing, Geo-Tech Polymers; Ronald Whaley, CEO, Geo-Tech Polymers.

One Step In 'Right' Direction: Nova Chem. Drops PE Contract Prices

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. November 2014

With an effective date of Nov. 1, polyethylene supplier Nova Chemicals, Calgary, Alberta (U.S. office in Moon Township, Penn.), has reduced November PE contract prices of prime resin by 3ȼ/lb, effectively marking the first move in two years to reduce North American PE prices.  Since the Nov. 2012, 2ȼ/lb decrease, PE prices moved up 21ȼ/lb—a period during which PE suppliers have enjoyed hefty profit margins.

 

Whether we’ll see other major PE suppliers take similar actions remains to be seen but some industry pros venture that something different needs to take place, as North American PE suppliers are outpricing themselves from world markets.  Michael Greenberg, CEO of The Plastics Exchange, reported recently that weakness in global energy, feedstock and resin prices are contributing factors to the “negative sentiment” gripping the domestic polyolefin market. Moreover, spot PE prices have moved lower—about 4-5 ȼ/lb below this season’s highs--as there are now ample supplies of most PE grades. “Sellers continue to offer material aggressively, seeking to quickly flip railcars rather than take on additional resin for future sale. However, processors—many of whom already have ample supplies, were ambivalent to the cheaper offers as they feel the market is trending lower,” Greenberg reported on Nov. 14.

 

For the last two years, Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi) has consistently driven the point that while the price of oil has nothing to do with the cost to make a pellet in North America, it has everything to do with the price of pellets. He recently stressed that the quickly changed PE market dynamics have surfaced from the unexpected drop in oil and naphtha prices. Burns also noted that regardless of the still relatively tight supplies, North American PE suppliers will need to address the global price that is set by the price of oil and make downward adjustments.

 

Burns cited two market changes that would force domestic PE suppliers to respond to today’s PE price level: an escalation of imported finished goods such as stretch film and can liners; and, the build-up of supplier inventories outpacing demand. He also saw two choices for North American PE suppliers: a proactive move whereby they gradually decrease prices regardless of still tight inventories; or, a reactive one, whereby suppliers wait until their inventories build up without an export market, supply outpaces demand, and sales are lost to Asia PE manufacturing.

 

IHS analysts, and other industry experts, all concede that processors are not likely to directly benefit from shale gas development lower energy and feedstock costs until new PE capacity comes on stream—most likely in the 2017-1208 time frame. At the same time, they forecast a 4.4%/yr increase in demand (1.2 times that of GDP) and roughly flat PE prices for the remainder of this year and through 2015.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 

 

Are PE Prices Likely To Drop?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 12. November 2014

How much relief in PE pricing we are likely to see and when, is up in the air at the moment. However, after the 3ȼ/lb September price hike, prices have been flat and are expected to continue that way into early 2015. It’s now been two years since the last decrease in North American PE prices. Since then, prices have moved up 21ȼ/lb. This while PE suppliers have enjoyed hefty profit margins.

 

Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), who a year ago predicted that PE prices would be higher again in 2014, offers some of his latest observations on market conditions. Burns consistently has driven the point that while the price of oil has nothing to do with the cost to make a pellet in North America, it has everything to do with the price of pellets globally.

 

Burns now points out that the PE market dynamics have been quickly changed by the unexpected drop in oil and naphtha prices. “Latin America has turned to Korea to meet their PE resin needs at a significantly lower price. He says that regardless of the still relatively tight supplies, North American PE suppliers will need to address the global price that is set by the price of oil and make downward adjustments.

 

Every global feedstock related to PE production tumbled in October, with the exception of flat pricing for natural gas and ethane: ethylene fell 15ȼ/lb, oil fell $17/bbl, naphtha fell $120/m.t. These decreases resulted in lower global PE prices, with the exception of Europe, where for the short term, tight ethylene supplies will keep PE prices firm.

 

There are two market changes Burns ventures that will push domestic PE suppliers to respond to today’s PE price level: an escalation of imported finished goods such as stretch film and can liners; and, the build-up of supplier inventories outpacing demand. He notes that PE exports so far have represented 17.7% of all North American PE production, which is on the lower side of the three-year average of ~20%. Latin America remains the primary destination, accounting for about 60% of exports.

 

At this juncture, Burns sees two choices for North American PE suppliers. One is proactive, whereby suppliers gradually decrease prices regardless of current tight inventories. However, he finds this unlikely to take place due to year-end incentives for sellers and product managers. He says 2014 has been a good year for suppliers, and processors ought not expect a proactive price reduction.  The other is reactive:  suppliers wait until their inventories build up without an export market, supply outpaces demand, and sales are lost to Asia PE manufacturing. In order to continue to manage inventories, Burns ventures that North American PE suppliers will have to sell resin nearly 15% less than domestic prices.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 




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