POLYOLEFINS – LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, ETHYLENE COPOLYMERS, POLYPROPYLENE, PROPYLENE COPOLYMERS and EVA.
Representing nearly all of the world’s trade volume in 2012, ITP measured 11.3 million tons of LDPE, up 2%; 8.8 million tons of LLDPE, down 1%; 17.3 million tons of HDPE, up 6%; 4.7 million tons of ethylene copolymers, up 4%; 15.9 million tons of polypropylene homopolymer, up 3%; 7.7 million tons of propylene copolymers, up 6%; and 1.7 million tons of EVA, up 5%. (Note: LDPE figures include some linear.)
The growth rates for global trade volume for 2012 were below those in 2011 for LDPE, LLDPE, polypropylene, and ethylene copolymers. The growth rate for HDPE was unchanged at +6% in both years; propylene copolymers growth accelerated from +4% to +6%; EVA showed the widest swing, moving from a decline of 4% in 2011 to a 5% gain in 2012
As trends in global trade for large volume, widely traded, products reflect trends in apparent demand, the slower growth in trade volume in 2012 versus 2011 indicated slower growth in global demand for all of the polyolefins except HDPE, propylene copolymers and EVA.
Trade patterns on regional levels also indicate trends in demand, particularly for regions with extensive intra-regional trade and large imports, such as Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific.
The recession in Western Europe in 2012 was apparent from lower growth rates that year on both the region’s intra-regional trade and on imports of nearly all the polyolefins. Despite this, the region’s imports from the Middle East of several polymers increased substantially: LDPE, up 27%; LLDPE, up 19%; polypropylene, up 23%; ethylene copolymers, up 15%; and, propylene copolymers, up 71%. Imports of HDPE from the Middle East fell 1%. Another notable change from 2011 was increased exports from Western Europe of LDPE, LLDPE, and PP, up 2%-5%, and, especially, HDPE, up 11%, and propylene copolymers, up 8%. Higher exports to Eastern Europe of all the polymers except LLDPE, and also of LDPE, LLDPE and HDPE to Asia-Pacific, were factors.
Eastern Europe continued as a growth market for all the polyolefins, imports sourced mainly from Western Europe and the Middle East (excluding EVA) but also noting large volumes of HDPE and polypropylene from Asia-Pacific. The Middle East was Eastern Europe’s top polypropylene supplier, and, nearly equal to Western Europe as a LLDPE supplier. Russia was a very high growth import market for all the polyolefins in 2012.
Asia-Pacific imported higher volumes in 2012 of all the polyolefins except ethylene copolymers, with the largest gains on imports of HDPE, up 24%, EVA, up 25%, and propylene copolymers, up 20%. Imports from the Middle East of the polyethylenes and copolymers rose 10%-28%; polypropylene, 23%; propylene copolymers, 40%. Also much higher were imports of HDPE from North America, Western Europe and Latin America and of EVA from North America and Western Europe. In sharp contrast with 2011, Asia-Pacific exports of all the polyolefins except HDPE and ethylene copolymers, were down in 2012.
China continued as the world’s largest market for each of the polyolefins. Despite concerns to the contrary, the growth rate on imports into China actually trended higher over the 2010 to 2012 period for LDPE (from 3% to 8%), HDPE (-9% to 14%), polypropylene (-7% to 3%), propylene copolymers (0% to 19%) and EVA (-5% to 21%). The growth rate on imports of linear and ethylene copolymers trended lower in the last two years. Elsewhere in the region, India, Indonesia and Singapore were high growth importers for several of the polyolefins in 2012.
Growth rates on polyolefin exports from the Middle East in 2012 were generally similar to those seen in the prior year: up 11%-27% on the polyethylenes and ethylene copolymers, 17% on polypropylene, and 52% on propylene copolymers. Asia-Pacific, Western and Eastern Europe and Africa were primary destinations, with small volumes to Latin America.
STYRENICS – POLYSTYRENE, ABS, SAN, STYRENE MONOMER
Representing nearly all of the world’s trade volume in 2012, ITP measured 3.6 million tons of trade in PS-nonexpandable, down 3% from 2011; 2.2 million tons of PS-expandable, unchanged; 4.1 million tons of ABS, down 6%; 0.5 million tons of SAN, up 8%; and 10.2 million tons of styrene monomer, down 3%. Growth rates in 2012 for all the styrenics became less negative/more positive versus 2011 except for PS-expandable.
Weak demand in Western Europe was evident from the region’s reduced intra-regional trade and also lower imports of polystyrene and styrene monomer. Imports of ABS and SAN were up, polymer mainly from Asia-Pacific. One bright spot was the region’s increased exports to Eastern Europe of PSN, up 12% (Russia, Turkey and Ukraine growth import markets), PSX, up 9% (Turkey and Poland), and SAN, up 2% (Russia).
Eastern Europe was a growth import market for all the styrenics. In addition to imports from Western Europe, Eastern Europe also imported large volumes of polymers from Asia-Pacific and styrene from the Middle East.
In 2012, North America had the highest growth rates of any world region on imports PSN, up 41%, PSX, up 12%, ABS, up 17%, and SAN, up 40%. North America also showed the world’s highest increase on exports of styrene monomer, up 11%, shipments increasing to Latin America and Asia-Pacific and staying level to Western Europe. In contrast, Middle East exports of styrene were down 4% in 2012, higher volumes to Eastern Europe offset by declines to Asia-Pacific and, especially, Western Europe.
Both Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade and also imports contracted in 2012 for PSN, PSX, ABS and styrene. Lower imports into China, the world’s largest market for each of these except PSX (United States) were key factors in the declines. The region’s exports of PSN and PSX each decreased by about 8% in 2012, noting, among other factors, declines to Western Europe and the Middle East.
VINYLS – PVC, EDC, VCM
Representing nearly all of the world’s trade volume in 2012, ITP measured 12.1 million tons of PVC polymer trade, up 3%; 2.6 million tons of ethylene dichloride, up 10%; and 2.9 million tons of vinyl chloride monomer, down 11%.
Western Europe’s intra-regional trade in PVC contracted by 2% in 2012, following a 4% decline in 2011. Imports were up 4%, mainly on increased volumes from Eastern Europe and Latin America. For the second year in a row exports increased, up 9% in 2012, on a small gain to major market Eastern Europe and a 54% jump on smaller volumes to Asia-Pacific. Western Europe’s EDC exports also increased in 2012, up 8%, most of it shipped to Asia-Pacific. Small volumes of VCM were also exported to Asia-Pacific during 2012, versus none in the prior year.
Exports of PVC from North America slowed for the third year in a row, up only 2% in 2012. Shipments were down to Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe, these declines not offset by gains to Africa and, especially, the Middle East, which was up 37% (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman). North America’s exports of EDC and VCM to Asia-Pacific, however, increased as did VCM exports to Latin America.
Asia-Pacific PVC trade was highlighted by expanded intra-regional trade, up 8%, and also higher imports, up 13%, but lower exports, down 20%. The region’s two top import markets, China and India, played important, and somewhat offsetting, roles in the region’s trade: China, imports down 8% for the year; and India, imports up 44%. Although the region imported slightly less PVC from North America, this was more than offset by large percentage gains on imports from Western Europe, and on smaller volumes from Latin America and Middle East.
Much higher EDC imports into China, India and Thailand not only pulled in higher volumes of monomer from North America, the Middle East and Western Europe but also expanded trade within the region, noting especially, increased exports from Indonesia and Taiwan.
OTHER KEY POLYMERS – POLYACETALS, POLYCARBONATES, PET, PMMA – POLYMER AND SHEET
Representing nearly all of the world’s trade volume in 2012, ITP measured 0.80 million tons of polyacetals polymer trade in 2012, unchanged from 2011; 3.9 million tons of polycarbonates, up 13%; 7.9 million tons of PET, up 1%; 0.55 million tons of PMMA polymer, down 1%; and 0.54 million tons of PMMA sheet, down 7%. The growth rate in 2012 for polycarbonates was up substantially from 2011; growth rates for polyacetals and PET showed minor improvements; global trade in PMMA polymer and sheet contracted for the second year in a row.
Key trends in polyactetals global trade in 2012: lower intra-regional trade in Western Europe and, especially, imports; increased exports from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific; slightly higher exports from North America to Asia-Pacific; substantially higher imports into Asia-Pacific. Although imports into China increased only 1%, there were much higher gains on imports into Singapore, India and Thailand.
The 13% expansion in polycarbonates global trade in 2012, up from a 4% decline in 2011, reflected higher imports into all world regions, noting especially gains of 40% to 42% on imports into Asia-Pacific, Western Europe and North America, 20% for Eastern Europe and 14% for Latin America. Exports from Western Europe rose 18%; from North America, 3%; from Asia-Pacific, 9%; and, with the highest gain, from the Middle East, up 361%. This followed a similar gain on Middle East exports in 2011. Middle East exports went primarily to Asia-Pacific, with only small volumes going to Europe. North America’s exports to Latin America rose 8%, offsetting a small decline to Asia-Pacific. Leading Asia-Pacific growth import markets: China, Taiwan, Singapore, India.
The volume of PET traded globally was nearly unchanged from 2010 through 2012. Among the key trends visible in 2012 were: a 13% increase in Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade; no change in exports from Asia-Pacific, the world’s largest exporting region; lower imports into Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and also Asia-Pacific; a 15% increase in imports into Africa. China’s PET exports hit record levels in 2012, up 31%.
GLYCOLS – MEG, DEG
Capturing nearly all of the world’s trade volume, ITP measured 13.9 million tons of mono-ethylene glycol trade in 2012, up 2%, and 1.3 million tons of di-ethylene glycol, up 1%. These followed of 5% and 6%, respectively, in 2011.
The minor change in MEG global trade volume in 2012 reflected lower imports into Western Europe, down 15%, North America, down 9%, Latin America, down 23%, plus, a 2% contraction in Western Europe’s intra-regional trade. These declines were offset by a 5% increase in imports into Asia-Pacific, the world’s top importing region.
Exports from the Middle East to all regions were unchanged at 7.4 million tons. Shipments from North America, however, rose 4%, following a 6% decline in 2011, lower volumes to Latin America more than offset by a 27% increase to Asia-Pacific. The minor change in DEG global trade volume in 2012 also reflected declines on imports into Western Europe and also in the region’s intra-regional trade. Exports from the Middle East to all regions of 641,000 tons rose 4% on gains to Asia-Pacific and Western Europe.
FEEDSTOCKS – ETHYLENE, PROPYLENE, BENZENE
Capturing nearly all of the world’s trade volume, ITP measured 6.9 million tons of benzene trade in 2012, up 3%, 6.3 million tons of ethylene trade, up 5%; and 6.5 million tons of propylene trade, up 3%. Similar percentage gains were seen in 2011 versus 2010 for benzene and ethylene; propylene trade, picked up from a decline of 3%.
Key trends in benzene trade in 2012: expanded intra-regional trade in both Western Europe and Asia-Pacific; gains of 3%-5% on imports into North America and the Middle East; a decline of 11% on imports into Western Europe; and, a decline of 9% on exports from Asia-Pacific, reflecting lower shipments to North America and Western Europe. Although North America’s imports of benzene from Asia-Pacific dropped, this was offset by higher volumes from Western Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. U.S. imports: 1.7 million tons, up 1%.
Key trends in ethylene trade in 2012: expanded intra-regional trade in Western Europe and Asia-Pacific; higher imports into Western Europe, up 12%, but declines in Eastern Europe, down 49%, and Asia-Pacific, down 7%. Middle East exports totaled 1.2 million tons, down 2%, a large gain to Western Europe offset by declines to Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific. Key trends in propylene trade: a sizable expansion in Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade and also much higher imports, up 18%; a sharp drop in imports into Latin America. Exports from the Middle East were down 4%, from North America, down 8%, from Western Europe, down 52%. Propylene from Asia-Pacific were seen in Western Europe and North America; exports from Latin America went to Asia-Pacific; exports from North America went mainly to Latin America.