Material Insights: Polypropylene prices dip

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North American prices for polypropylene resin ticked down another penny in March. We’ll talk about why, and take a look into our crystal ball to see what’s coming in April, in this edition of Material Insights.

Winter weather affected some deliveries of polypropylene resin, and prices for propylene monomer feedstock declined by an average of one and a half cents in March. Those moves contributed to the price decrease.

Polypropylene resin buyers reported seeing drops of between 1 and 2 cents per pound. The change is being shown as down a penny on the Plastics News resin pricing chart.

This marks the second month in a row that North American polypropylene prices have decreased by 1 cent. Back in December and January, prices had surged an average of 9 cents.

Sources told Plastics News that planned turnarounds at some propylene production facilities could tighten that market in April, potentially reducing the chance of another price drop.

These recent decreases have come even as North American polypropylene sales have improved in the first two months of 2014. Two-month sales in the region are up one point four percent vs. the same period in 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council. That increase comes entirely from exports, which almost doubled in the period. Domestic sales, on the other hand, tumbled almost 1 percent.

For the two-month period, polypropylene sales into sheet grew almost 32 percent and sales to distributors climbed 18 percent. Weak demand, however, was seen in two-month PP sales into injection molded rigid packaging, which fell almost 18 percent.

Polyethylene market

In the polyethylene market, PN recently got an update from ExxonMobil Chemical President Steve Pryor at the IHS conference in Houston.

Pryor told PN that his firm is close to starting construction on new PE capacity in Mont Belvieu, Texas, as well as on a new ethylene cracker in nearby Baytown. Production on both projects is set to begin in 2017. ExxonMobil and many other petrochemical firms are adding capacity in North America because of newfound supplies of natural gas feedstock in the region.

Pryor said that petrochemical expansion in the U.S. and around the world will be a driver of middle class growth by creating many good, well-paying jobs, as well as raw material for a wide range of consumer products.

Evonik medical expansion


In the R&D world, German materials firm Evonik recently announced it would expand its medical devices portfolio with a pair of new research facilities. The specialty plastics and chemicals maker is opening a Medical Devices Project House in Birmingham, Alabama., and one in Hanau, Germany. These R&D sites will develop biomaterials and polymers for medical technology, focusing on implantables.

Earlier this year, Evonik introduced new high-performance polymers specially designed for medical devices. These include grades of nylon 12 and PEEK for catheters, surgical instruments and hearing aids.

That’s what Plastics News is reporting this week. Make sure to keep up with our latest news, both online and in print.