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True transactional prices and timely intelligence across the petrochemical spectrum

PetroChem Wire by OPIS is the industry’s go-to source for real transactional prices, with relevant news and focused commentary. Our market coverage across the entire U.S. petchem value chain includes:

  • Exclusive daily prices for Monomers, Polymers & Chemical Feedstocks
  • Confirmed ethylene and propylene transactions
  • Ethylene and propylene system maps
  • Refinery blendstock prices/analysis
  • Olefins and Polymers forward curves
  • Plant outages/operating schedules
  • Prime and recycled plastics prices and markets
  • PVC & PVC pipe markets

An essential resource for every industry player

Most major petrochemical and polymer resin producers are subscribers. So are the world’s largest chemical companies. Commodity trading, financial and research firms rely on us. We’re a secret weapon for savvy manufacturers using plastics for products, packaging and shipping materials.

About Olefins

The two most common olefins are ethylene and propylene, which are the basic building blocks of a variety of downstream chemicals and plastics. Ethylene’s major downstream markets are polyethylene, ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol, PVC and acetyls. Propylene comes in three purity levels: RGP, CGP, and PGP.

Ethylene can be produced from components of the natural gas stream (ethane other light liquid feeds) from heavier feedstocks derived from crude (naphtha gasoil) by steam cracking.

The flexibility to source feedstocks from crude natural gas create the opportunity for olefins producers in the US to plan raw material sourcing that allows for the most cost-effective olefins production.

Once produced, US olefins are generally fed in their gaseous state through a proprietary pipeline system that spans Texas and Louisiana, where they are transferred and sold to the various producers of downstream products, sorted in salt caverns. Olefins can be exported by cryogenically liquefying them at a terminal for shipment in a refrigerated seagoing vessel. In the US, this is more commonly seen with propylene than with ethylene.

In the US, olefins are priced in both the contract and spot markets in cents per pound. US olefins pricing often crelates to upstream NGLs markets, which relate to daily trends seen in crude and natural gas prices. As a feedstock, olefins costs have a major impact on the prices of downstream chemicals and polymers. Supply and demand balances influence many production, inventory, and pricing decisions along the supply chain.

About Polymers

Plastics are the world’s most common synthetic polymers and are used in a variety of everyday applications. Many items are now made exclusively with plastic. Plastics’ ease of manufacture, light weight, and designable properties often make them ideal substitutes for glass, wood, paper metals.

The resin industry has been evolving globally since its commercial infancy back in the 1930s, and now consists of dozens of producers and many thousands of process. Ever demanding requirements for new products and more cost effective ways of producing them have continuously driven innovation and technology. Many of the early invents of process technologies for manufacturing resins (Phillips, Hoechst, Unipol) license to a global community of petrochemical firms.

Resin producers manufacture and market branded prime grade resins sold under their specific product nomenclature, whether shipped directly through an authorized distributor. The producer business is referred to as the contract market while any generic prime wide-spec volumes move through what is referred to as the spot market. Spot market liquidity has increased dramatically in the last ten years due to fluctuating resin prices which creates a need for frequent inventory adjustments.

Plastics come in two main types, thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermosets can only be melted and formed once through application of heat energy and are considered permanently cured thereafter. They are stronger than thermoplastics on initial use but will completely degrade upon any subsequent heating. Thermoplastics can be melted to a liquid (molten) state then formed and frozen into a solid state by molding extrusion processes. This process can be repeated several times until heat degradation negates any beneficial properties.

Thermoplastics are further divided into two categories: engineering grades and commodity grades. By volume, the most widely used thermoplastics are the polyolefins, such as polyethylene and polypropylene. Here, the repeating monomer unit is an olefin, ethylene propylene gas respectively, that is polymerized with the addition of co-monomer and catalyst in a reactor. Polyolefins are considered recyclable because of their thermoplastic properties. The commonality and ease of transport and use of polyolefins allow them to be globally accepted and traded in a high-growth international market.

About Recycled Plastics

Recycled plastics come from two types of prime plastic scrap: post-industrial and post-consumer. Many companies, large and small, purchase bales of that scrap material, sort it, clean it and convert it to either pellet (Repro) or flake (Regrind) form. Pellets command more money than flakes because making them is more expensive.

Prices for recycled plastics are driven by many factors including availability and cost of scrap material, the price of the prime resin from which the scrap is derived, transportation costs and the quality/specifications of the material being sold.

Interest in recycled plastic is growing as more resin consumers discover that they can use it in their manufacturing processes either to supplement or replace prime material. Trade in and manufacture of these products is growing and the price spread between prime resins and recycled resins is becoming more interesting to our subscribers and to the market at large. In response to industry requests, we’ve included coverage of repro/regrind resin

All of the prime resins that we cover in our daily report are also assessed in their recycled form in Recycled Plastics Weekly. Investigating the recycled plastics markets led to the addition of a recycled PET, (polyethylene terephthalate) assessment soon after initial publication. Our recycled plastics market coverage is evolving. Many of these recycled resins are purchased in large quantities and priced on a monthly basis. Our assessments currently reflect this business, and are reported on an FOB U.S. East Coast basis.

About PVC & Pipe

Pipe is the largest downstream segment for PVC, and therefore exerts the biggest influence on PVC resin pricing. Tracking the movement of pipe prices is vital to understanding the PVC resin market. Downstream markets like housing and construction in turn drive PVC and siding demand. However, tracking PVC markets is challenging because typical reports are not only expensive and/or infrequent; they set prices based on suspect methodology unrelated to actual market transactions.

Our PVC and Pipe Report gives you a complete, independent and cost-effective briefing on the PVC market every Friday, and is the only source for accurate pricing on finished PVC pipe: municipal, conduit and plumbing. We also provide a weekly chart of the downstream housing market. We report North American PVC price assessments weekly based on actual transactions, including Pipe Grade, GP grade and Export.