Steadily rising prices of ethylene between mid-April and mid-September caused many buyers to turn to alternative sources, but a recent pullback in the market has rekindled interest. Ethylene offtake this month is currently around 172,825 metric tons, and compares to 253,399 Mt in October. Ethylene prices on the US Gulf Coast rallied more than 225% between a low in April near 8c/pound and a peak in September at more than 26c/lb.
There is typically pressure on imports to countries like Chile and Brazil due to less demand for LPG heating fuel. This year, however, there is more demand for coronavirus mitigation equipment that uses LPG feedstock to produce plastics and films.
Winter wheat dryness has intensified, as ongoing dryness across the US High Plains has limited moisture for wheat germination and establishment. This has pushed Kansas and CBOT wheat prices higher, with the US hard red wheat carry-out expected to be at a multiyear low. As the bread basket of Ukraine, the southern region remained short in soil moisture. Winter wheat conditions in central and eastern Russia also deteriorated. There is less than a month before the southern Russia crop heads for dormancy.
Some shutdowns in petrochemical infrastructure that took place before the August 27 landfall of Hurricane Laura are still in place, and the effects are reverberating through global olefin markets. US ethylene loadings so far this month are 11,642 metric tons. The hurricane struck near Lake Charles, Louisiana, and disrupted activity at several of the petrochemical plants located there including at Sasol, Westlake, Lotte and LyondellBasell.
The Pacific region does not normally garner much attention in the LPG market because trade flows are typically very small relative to other parts of the world, but exports from Australia are very strong this month. Loadings in the country are up 60% in August and 23% year-over-year to 125,000 barrels per day, and would be the highest on our records if maintained through month-end.
Global exports of liquefied natural gas in August totaled approximately 31.2 million tons on board 479 vessels, lower than August 2019’s pace of 32.5 million tons on 483 vessels, with a drop in loadings from the US & Pacific regions. Approximately 30.8 million tons arrived on 474 vessels at import terminals in August, compared to 32.9 million tons in August 2019.
The Mexican government is falling short on its promises for the energy sector once again. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) vowed to considerably increase refinery runs earlier this year, and despite a rebound in April, Mexican crude processing has tumbled to 534,000 bpd in July. Mexico has meanwhile experienced a steady increase in clean product imports, after hitting lows in June due to the demand crimp of Covid-19.
Preparations for the approach and landfall of Hurricane Laura forced the shutdown of many shipping terminals and refineries, as well as several petrochemical crackers. The reduction in productive capacity may be short-lived, but comes at a time when olefins and feedstock commodities are in high demand. US LPG loadings this month are running at a pace of 1.64 million barrels per day, and would be the highest on our records if maintained.
Naphtha’s price surge in May and June has made LPG more cost effective for petrochemical crackers that are able to switch feedstocks. LPG prices moved only slightly higher during the naphtha rally, and especially so in producing regions such as the US. As a result, a favorable arb developed for US suppliers, and loadings are up to 1.78 million barrels per day this month to the highest on our records.
July finished with additional signs that the LPG markets are coming back into favor, with overall offtake increasing 14% from June. Higher discharges took place in parts of Asia, where Japanese and South Korean imports each grew 24%, to 324,000 bpd and 333,000 bpd respectively.
Global exports of liquefied natural gas in July totaled approximately 28.7 million tons on board 474 vessels, much lower than July 2019’s pace of 31.7 million tons, with a reduction of loading from the US & Pacific regions. Approximately 27.6 million tons arrived on 471 vessels at import terminals in July, compared to 30.8 million tons in July 2019.
Tensions have ratcheted up in recent days, as hackers reportedly linked to China have stolen data from an Australian defense contractor – a move which could be the catalyst of a further breakdown in relations between the two countries.
The export tracker provides us a view of where we stand in terms of pace in grains exports. By comparing Clipperdata’s up-to-date tracking of commodity loadings and the USDA estimated crop year exports, it calculates the ratio that has been shipped for the current marketing year, factoring a historical average difference between crop year Clipperdata trackings and USDA officials.
Now in July, after more than three months of quarantine measures and more than 2.5 million cases across the region, it seems that the governments’ efforts to halt the spread of the disease have mostly been ineffective, leading to a higher infection rate, while putting the economic sustainability of millions in danger.
Global exports of liquefied natural gas in June totaled approximately 28.2 million tons on board 472 vessels, much lower than June 2019’s pace of 29.3 million tons. Approximately 27.6 million tons arrived on 447 vessels at import terminals in June, compared to 29.5 million tons in June 2019. The number of floating LNG cargoes remained volatile last month, with the highest number of vessels at 33 occurring on June 19.
The number of coronavirus cases in Latin America continues to rise, with more than 1.4 million people infected in Brazil and Mexico. The lockdowns and quarantines of recent months have weighed heavily on clean product demand in these countries – something starkly reflected in their import volumes. As we close out June, Mexican clean product imports this month are at their lowest monthly pace since 2014, halving from year-ago levels.
Brent crude prices have more than doubled since the lows of late April, and while part of that is a reflection of the demand-driven recovery we’ve seen on a global basis, it is also the result of global oil producers throttling back on exports. While this recent discipline is to be commended, let us not forget what got us into this mess.
Vessels laden with crude waiting offshore China for more than seven days – which we classify as floating storage – has climbed above 50 million barrels for the first time. This increase is less related to China running out of onshore storage – Ursa Space Systems sees storage utilization running at \~65% of total capacity.
Tension between the United States and China has ratcheted up in recent weeks amid increasingly hostile rhetoric. The global spread of the coronavirus has further hurt relations between Beijing and Washington, stoking the possibility of a new trade war amid a global economic slowdown. However, from a flows perspective, all seems to be fine.
Global exports of liquefied natural gas in May totaled approximately 23.4 million tons on board 481 vessels, much lower than May 2019’s pace of 30.7 million tons. Approximately 29.7 million tons arrived on 488 vessels at import terminals in May, compared to 30.6 million tons in May 2019.