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H2 Outlook: Global propylene supply to remain healthy on extra capacity, strong inventories


Global propylene markets will continue to see healthy supply availability in the second half of 2019 as fresh capacity comes online in Asia and US inventory levels remain strong.

As supply improved, alongside a slowdown in derivatives demand, global propylene spot prices fell this year from the multi-year highs seen in 2018, and the US market has taken the steepest dive.

US propylene supply has recovered in the first half of 2019, as production from propane dehydrogenation units has improved. This was in line with expectations for the front half of the year, and eventually led to record high inventory levels of 6.459 million barrels in March, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Trade participants have said this is something they expect to continue for the remainder of the year.

Inventory levels have gradually come down since March, but are still well above inventory levels a year ago. At the end of June, US inventories stood at 4.960 million barrels, compared with 2.324 million barrels at the end of June 2018. Market participants have said stocks should build again following mid-year turnarounds at some heavy cracker units. But sources added that all three US PDH units are still expected to have see type of turnaround between October and February 2020.

The overall increase in inventories has pressured US propylene spot prices, leaving them well below 2018 levels. Polymer-grade propylene spot prices hit a low of 32 cents/lb ($705/mt) FD USG in late February before rebounding and then receding again to 32 cents/lb FD USG in mid-June.