Resin supplies are being impacted by COVID-19, but the petrochemicals market is in good shape to weather the storm.
Those were the main takeaways from an April 16 webinar hosted by Petrochemicals Update and the Reuters news service. The event included executives from BASF Corp. and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (Sabic).
"There have been some imbalances, with some markets impacted more than others," said Bret Bement, North American petrochemicals supply chain director with BASF. "Automotive is down, but other markets like [information technology] and health care are relatively strong."
He added that because BASF has many integrated facilities making numerous products, "some materials have been sold, others are still trying to find homes."
Paul Jepson, Sabic specialties logistics operations director, agreed that the COVID-19 market is two-sided.
"Auto customers are closed, but health care with disaster-related orders is seeing demand as good as ever," he said.
Specialty materials, including compounds, are seeing more demand than commodities, according to Jepson.
Material carriers are in the same situation as resin firms, he added. "Certain lanes of business, like grocery stores, are really hot, but others remain closed," Jepson said. "We need to find each one and get them the capacity they need."
Sabic also has been making an increased number of air freight shipments, which Jepson said "need a lot more babysitting in getting the order out the door."
Bob Verret, chief information officer at Dupre Logistics LLC in Lafayette, La., said that some polymer shipments to China have been affected by COVID-19, but producers "are trying to keep going."
Some service businesses are seeing cash flow challenges because of reduced demand from construction and maintenance, according to Mark Montanari, chemicals, oil and gas vice president of logistics firm Maine Pointe in Houston.
Any plastic material selling into the oil and gas market "is obviously down," added Chad Burke, president and CEO of Economic Alliance Houston Port Region.
Many petrochemicals firms "have robust frameworks of sales and planning … that's a level of collaboration we take for granted," Montanari said, adding that changing dynamics around COVID-19 production demand "have put stress on the system."