China's domestic phenol market is bracing for a demand recovery after the 70th China National Day holiday (1-7 October 2019), with buying to take place gradually.
Prior to a demand rebound, participants expect buying to weaken and prices to fluctuate slightly in the lead-up to the upcoming Golden Week holiday, citing shutdowns, cutbacks and restricted highway transportation in some regions. Shandong Lihuayi Weiyuan has put its 120,000 tonne/year new bisphenol A (BPA) unit into production, with products coming out.
Its two BPA units are running at an average rate of 90% at present, according to company sources. Thus all cargoes from its 220,000 tonne/year phenol plant will be for captive use.
Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical shut two phenol units with a combined capacity of 185,000 tonnes/year on 23 September for maintenance, with restart expected around 8 October. This will lead to an output loss of around 8,500 tonnes.
Supply in north China will tighten as a result, while some participants were of the view that downstream demand should not be poor in October.
Although phenol demand did not perform well in the good demand season deemed as the “Golden September”, some phenolic resins producers were ramping up production.
At present, the average run rate in the phenolic resins industry is about five percentage points higher than August, according to industry sources.
September BPA output also saw an improvement from August, with the units operated at an average rate of around 84% in the week ended 20 September.
However, Nantong Xingchen’s upcoming turnaround at its 50,000 tonne/year BPA unit - due to commence in late October for a period of 20-30 days - will reduce demand for phenol to some extent.
Phenol prices in the Chinese domestic market eased after initially soaring in the week ended 20 September in line with crude values.
Prices enjoyed large increases in the first half of that week due to soaring crude values then in the wake of Saudi oil infrastructure attacks.
Crude prices, however, eased in the second half of that week as Saudi Arabia said its oil supply would be restored soon. Therefore, some phenol cargo-holders were more inclined to sell in a bid to lock in profits, which dragged down prices together with a lack of buying activities.
On 23 September, phenol prices in Jiangsu, east China closed at yuan (CNY) 8,550-8,600/tonne ex-tank, down by CNY175/tonne or 2% from the peak of CNY8,700-8,800/tonne on 17 September.