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Asia naphtha market under pressure as crackers eye cheaper alternative LPG


    Crackers in Asia are expected to switch to cheaper alternative feedstock LPG to meet shortfalls of naphtha whose supplies from the west is set to drop to a four-month low in August, four sources who track the shipments said.

    Cumulative east-bound naphtha cargoes from Europe, the Mediterranean and the United States will fall at least 40% in August to 1.6 million-1.7 million tons from May’s record high due to run cuts in Europe, they said. That is about 7-9% lower versus July, they said.

    Buyers, most of whom are operating their crackers at full-tilt, are expected to turn to LPG, whose prices have recently started weakening. That could exert further pressure on naphtha spot prices and margins.

    Petrochemical makers who operate naphtha crackers typically can replace 5% to 15% of their key feedstock with LPG.

    While most have term supplies of LPG, they would buy some spot cargoes but only when the prices are trading at a discount of at least $50 a tonne to naphtha.

    Strong demand for LPG, a mixture of propane and butane, had kept its spot prices high until June.