FEIBP Market Report 2017: Thermoplastic Polymers 

(Click link at the bottom of this article for accompanying slideshow presentation)

Last year, I reported on a very uneventful year in the plastics raw material market. A very stable and low oil price, and plenty of availability of all of the main polymers used in filament extrusion and injection moulding. I believe I also said that we expected things to remain stable, at least regarding Nylon. This was indeed the case up to the end of 2016.

In November 2016, OPEC announced a reduction in crude oil production, which led almost immediately to a 20% spike in the oil price. Due to huge volumes of oil being held in inventory and fracking going from strength to strength in the US, this had little effect, and prices reduced pretty quickly again in spring of 2017. Price is around the same level as 12 months ago.

The oil increase in late 2016 led to small increases in PP prices early in 2017, but these were unsustainable for manufacturers and we find ourselves back where we were a year ago, with good availability and relatively low prices for polyolefines. It is likely to be many years if ever, until the oil price reaches the $100/barrel heights of 2014 and, therefore, we should expect a reasonably quiet  PP and PE market going forward.

Supplier prices are quoted on a monthly basis, so no 100% guaranteed stability can be expected.
PA 6 prices increased monthly from the start of 2017, taking us back to prices last seen in 2014. Actual increase is around 25% versus prices last year. This was due to the higher cost of base materials and manufacturers (not us) wanting to improve their margins. We hope that prices will now stabilize for the foreseeable future.

PA 66 followed a similar trend to PA 6 in 2017, increasing around 20% but this time coupled with very poor availability due to strong market demand for the polymer for injection moulding applications in the electronics and automotive industries. Supply remains tight, and further increases cannot be ruled out.
Although both 612 and 610 are on the same slide, there has been two completely different stories regarding these polymers this year.

612 – which is used in toothbrush and abrasive filaments mainly has been OK both in terms of price and availability.

610 – used in abrasive filaments and filaments for technical brushes has increased by more than 30% this year. We have the Chinese government to thank for this. The Working Committee for Air Pollution and Control (yes, they really do have one) closed one of the two factories producing Sebacic acid in the country, and reduced the capacity of the other by 50%. This led to one supplier declaring Force Majeure and the other one a 30% price increase. Thankfully things seem to have quietened down, and we hope that supply is assured going forward.

Polyester 

On PBT – mainly used for filaments used in food processing brushes there have been small increases and some shortages in supply, but nothing on the scale of some polyamides. If shortages continue, larger price increases are likely to follow.

PET – used in household brushes and brooms is a commodity item which is heavily influenced by demand from the PET bottle industry. Prices fluctuate monthly but in the long term are generally stable.

Outlook

To speculate on the outlook for the next 12 months until our congress in Bordeaux next September as you will appreciate is impossible. 

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