Two main factors – the startup of new capacity plus tariffs on exports to China – have resulted in large regional shifts in US exports of linear PE. Exports have increased to all regions but especially to Western and Eastern Europe, and combined shipments to those regions now exceed those to Asia-Pacific.
Based on latest available statistics, ITP projects a volume of 3.2 million tons of recycle polyethylene traded globally in 2018. This is a decline of 31%, or 1.4 million tons, from 2017. Exports out of Western Europe and North America were particularly impacted, although shipments from all regions were down.
A 14% increase in global LNG trade in 2018, to 318 million tons of imports and exports, is forecast by ITP based on the latest available statistics. This follows an 8% increase in global trade in 2017 versus 2016.
Higher phenol exports from new capacity in Saudi Arabia was one factor in the 7% increase in global trade volume, to 3.0 million tons, projected for 2018.
ITP projects polypropylene homopolymer trade volume for 2018 of 20 million tons, up 1% from 2017. This compares with an increase of 5% in 2017 versus 2016. The trend in global trade volume generally indicates the trend in world demand.
ITP projects global trade volume in 2018 of 62 million tons in all polymers of ethylene (LDPE/LLDPE, HDPE, EAOC, Copolymers and EVA), up 5% from 2017. This compares with an increase of 7% in 2017 versus 2016. The trend in global trade volume generally indicates the trend in world demand.
Reflecting new capacity, US exports of ethylene polymers (LDPE, LLDPE, EAOC, HDPE, EVA, Copolymers) trended upward from the last quarter of 2017 and climbed through several new highs through July 2018.
There was a strong upward trend in Thailand’s exports of commodity polymers through most of the first seven months of the year. Imports of virgin commodity polymers were up slightly; imports of recycle polymers soared.
Korea’s exports of commodity polymers expanded moderately in the first seven months of 2018, as did shipments of fabricated plastic products. Imports rose sharply. Korea exported less recycle polymers but imported more.
Although virgin polyethylene production capacity is similar in both regions, Western Europe exported 1.4 million tons of recycle polyethylene in 2017, compared with 0.6 million tons exported by from North America.
Shipments in 2017 from both regions were mainly to Asia-Pacific, although 220,000 tons of its total was shipped by Western Europe to Eastern Europe. Exports from both Western Europe and North America declined versus 2016, by 15% and 9%, respectively.
As of January 2018, China’s imports of R-PE have virtually disappeared. Although R-PE imports into Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey and other countries have been rising, their imports to date are much smaller than China’s. Because of the previous size of Western Europe’s R-PE exports, that region will likely be impacted by the loss of the Chinese market to a greater degree than will North America.
From International Trader Publications’ Recycle Polyethylene World Trade Review – a continuously updated on line analysis of trade trends between countries and regions, based on latest import/export statistics from 46 countries.