High natural gas prices are affecting production of some plastics and related feedstocks in the European market.
Production changes outlined in a recent graphic from research firm ICIS include:
• Fibrant BV reducing production rates on nylon feedstock caprolactam in Geleen, Netherlands. The site has annual production capacity of almost 600 million pounds of caprolactam. One caprolactam line at the site also is having technical issues, according to the report.
• Rohm GmbH cutting run rates for acrylic feedstock MMA to 70 percent at a site in Worms, Germany. The site has annual production capacity of around 700 million pounds of MMA.
• Trinseo plc reducing run rates for MMA to 75 percent at a site in Rho, Italy. The site has annual production capacity of around 200 million pounds of MMA.
• A melamine resin site operated by Azomures SA in Mures, Romania, remains closed. The site — with annual production capacity of about 400 million mounds of melamine — has been closed since December, according to the report.
• In Poland, Grupa Azoty has stopped production on one melamine line and on caprolactam and nylon 6 resin in Tarnow, The firm also has reduced production of nylon 6 and caprolactam in Pulawy. Grupa Azoty operates total production capacity of 210 million pounds of melamine, 375 million pounds of caprolactam and 310 million pounds of nylon 6 at those two sites.
• BASF SE also said it would stop production of ethylene in Ludwigshafen, Germany, if its gas supply there falls under 50 percent for a prolonged period of time, according to the report. The firm operates almost 1.4 billion pounds of ethylene capacity at that site.
European natural gas prices now are more than 14 times their average compared with the past decade, according to the Financial Times. The Ukraine crisis has cut off the availability of Russian natural gas to the region.
Natural gas prices in Europe were up another 10 percent on Aug. 22 to 292.5 euros per kilowatt hour before closing at 278. At 292.5 euros per kilowatt hour, the price is the equivalent of $85 per million British thermal units, the measurement used in the U.S. By comparison, U.S. natural gas prices closed at $9.68 per million Btus on Aug. 22, more than double its price at the start of the year.
An Aug. 23 Financial Times article said that the rise in European gas prices "may crimp industrial production in mainland Europe and push the region into recession" and that widespread fears of shortages this winter have led gas users to try to lock in supplies, "pushing up prices even as fears of a severe economic slowdown grow."