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  March 31st, 2021 | Written by

The Polyethylene Market to Grow Rapidly Despite the Shutdown of the U.S. Plants

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  • With 33M tonnes, China remains the largest polyethylene-consuming country worldwide, accounting for 37% of total volume.
  • The global polyethylene market expansion should occur mainly due to the new capacities in Asia.

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Polyethylene In Primary Forms – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends, and Insights.’ Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Global polyethylene production is set to grow rapidly due to the launch of new capacities in Asia. The construction of new plants for the processing of recycled polyethylene becomes urgent. The shutdowns of the U.S. plants affected by the storm and increased freight rates led to higher polyethylene costs on the stock exchanges.

Key Trends and Insights

High demand for packaging and containers was supporting the polyethylene market during the pandemic. In China, the world’s largest polyethylene consumer,  the demand was growing steadily throughout 2020.

Recently, U.S polyethylene manufacturing has suffered not only from lockdown consequences but also from force majeure circumstances. In February 2021, LyondellBasell, ExxonMobil, Ineos Olefins and Polymers, and Formosa Plastics halted their polyethylene production lines affected by severe storms in Texas. The total capacity of the shutdown Texas facilities was about 19 million tonnes. The current high congestion of the U.S. seaports has led to delivery times violation.

Stable oil prices after the shocks of 2020 create preconditions for the polyethylene prices equilibrium. However, the rise in freight rates leads to higher prices for polyethylene. The cost of container transportation at the beginning of 2021 increased by 1.5 times compared to those of 2020. It was caused by a shortage of containers and ships, as in 2020, the transportation of consumer goods from China to the U.S. increased significantly.

The global polyethylene market expansion should occur mainly due to the new capacities in Asia, most of which are to be located in China. The expected increase in China’s domestic production exceeds 700 thousand tonnes in 2021.

As the polyethylene market keeps on growing, more and more plastic waste needs to be recycled. Building new plastic recycling plants becomes an urgent need to follow the course of the European Green Deal.

China to Expand the Domestic Production to Meet the Growing Demand While Saudi Arabia to Focus on Export

With 33M tonnes, China remains the largest polyethylene-consuming country worldwide, accounting for 37% of total volume. Moreover, polyethylene consumption in China exceeded the figures recorded by the second-largest consumer, the U.S. (7.5M tonnes), fourfold. India (6.6M tonnes) ranked third in total consumption, with a 7.4% share (IndexBox estimates).

From 2012 to 2019, the average annual rate of growth in China amounted to +9.2%. In other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: the U.S. (+2.2% per year) and India (+3.5% per year).

In value terms, China ($69.9B) led the market alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by the U.S. ($9.9B). It was followed by India.

In 2019, the amount of polyethylene in primary forms exported worldwide reached 49M tonnes, with an increase of 5.2% against 2018. The total export volume increased at an average annual rate of +3.1% from 2012 to 2019. In value terms, polyethylene exports fell to $55B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia (9.2M tonnes), distantly followed by the U.S. (5.7M tonnes), Singapore (2.8M tonnes), Belgium (2.8M tonnes), Iran (2.6M tonnes), and the United Arab Emirates (2.3M tonnes) were the major exporters of polyethylene in primary forms, together committing 52% of total exports. South Korea (2.1M tonnes), Thailand (2M tonnes), Germany (1.9M tonnes), Qatar (1.7M tonnes), Canada (1.7M tonnes), Malaysia (1.4M tonnes), and the Netherlands (1.4M tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders (IndexBox estimates).

From 2012 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of shipments amongst the key exporting countries was attained by Malaysia, while exports for the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Saudi Arabia ($9.3B), the U.S. ($7B), and Belgium ($3.6B) appeared to be the countries with the highest levels of exports in 2019, together accounting for 36% of global exports. These countries were followed by Singapore, Germany, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Thailand, Canada, Qatar, the Netherlands, and Malaysia, which together accounted for a further 40%.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform