Surging demand has helped polypropylene makers raise prices as much as 2 cents per pound since mid-May.
Prices for homopolymer and impact copolymer PP are up 1.5 cents per pound, while random copolymer prices have climbed 2 cents per pound, according to processors and producers contacted recently. These changes are reflected on this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
North American PP sales through April are up 11.5 percent, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington. Sales into injection molding markets are up almost 17 percent, including leaps of almost 22 percent in transportation uses and almost 15 percent in consumer products such as furniture and housewares.
A Michigan-based processor said some molders have switched from high density polyethylene to PP because of drastic upswings in HDPE prices, which have risen an average of 11 cents per pound in 1999.
``In thinner-wall containers, molders can switch back and forth,'' the processor said. ``They'll have two sets of molds and move as the price varies. The performance is the same and actually could be a little better with polypropylene.''
A spokesman for market leader Montell Polyolefins of Wilmington, Del., said supplies remain tight and most plants ``are running pretty flat out.'' Montell has been approached by other PP makers looking for help in meeting orders, he said.
The spokesman also said capacity brought on earlier this year in Alvin, Texas, by Alpharetta, Ga.-based BP Amoco Chemicals, hasn't had an impact yet on the market. The affect of capacity that Epsilon Products will bring on line later this month in Garyville, La., also should not be felt until next year, the spokesman said.
Epsilon, based in Marcus Hook, Pa., will bring on additional capacity in October as well. Later this year, Arco Products of Los Angeles will open a PP facility in Carson, Calif., and Pittsburgh-based Aristech Corp. will add capacity in La Porte, Texas.
One New York-based processor said many PP users have built up inventories, anticipating additional increase attempts. Producers currently are seeking further increases of 2 or 3 cents for dates ranging from June 15-July 15.
``It looks like the producers are trying to get prices as high as they can because they'll be under the gun by the end of the year if prices start to drop,'' he said.