Prices for some polymers are out of control as extreme shortages persist.
Polymer markets turn disastrous in March, with buyers set to absorb even bigger price increases compared to February. While demand booms, upstream issues increase, providing a perfect storm for many players who risk shutting down. The markets are edging closer to a worst-case scenario of a complete collapse in supply chains.
Polycarbonate (PC) producers are seeking up to €600/mt increases in March. And general purpose grade is heading towards €3,000/mt.
Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) availability decreased because of a lack of methyl methacrylate (MMA) and low imports. However, while prices lagged behind other polymers, such as PC, they are set to catch up fast in Q2.
Nylon 6 (PA6) prices gained up to €700/mt in the past few months. While higher costs and low supply continue to pressure prices, the strong demand has tightened the market further. Players expect even bigger increases in March. Beside the market tightness, firm upstream costs from benzene to caprolactam are also fuelling the upside.
Nylon 66 (PA66) is not as short as it was in 2018 when prices reached above €4,000/mt but there is a feel that the market will soon get there. Sellers are unable to satisfy current demand, with the recent bad weather in the US turning the global shortage from bad to critical. Many equipment makers run the risk of not being able to supply automotive producers because of the shortage of PA66.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is one of the most disastrous markets in Europe. The latest spike in styrene of €500/mt adds another major pressure on the market. The lack of acrylonitrile (ACN) continues. And the new INEOS Styrolution’s production of 55,000 mt/year plant in Wingles, France, has done little to ease the severe shortage in Europe.
Styrene Acrylonitrile (SAN) is also suffering from the low ACN supply. The fragmented and conservative nature of the SAN market resulted in prices lagging behind the spike in ABS prices. However, this is no longer the case. The lack of SAN even pushed some buyers to dip into recycled grade market. But offers were similar if not higher than prime material, reflecting the dire situation for many buyers.
Polystyrene (PS) while not as tight as many other polymers has seen prices jump in March on the back of the spike in styrene. The production issues upstream continue to reduce the availability of styrene, with the largest producer in Europe reportedly still in force majeure (FM).
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) prices are out of control in Europe. Buyers are seeing values more than double in a short space of time. The shortage and high prices of imports coupled with a tremendous spike in butanediol (BDO) prices globally means buyers are now receiving offers that exceed €3,000/mt for unfilled grade.
While demand rallies, supply is getting tighter for all polymers. Many buyers are struggling to push the sudden jump in polymer prices downstream and will soon risk negative margins. Moreover, the continuous disruptions upstream could force production to stop along the value chain. While the past few weeks have been devastating, there is a feel that the worse is yet to come, which could prove to be calamitous for many buyers.