Asia Octane: Key Market Indicators for April 11-15

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Demand for Asian gasoline and its blending components is expected to soften over April 11-15, as China maintains a lockdown in Shanghai and COVID-19 measures are enforced in Guangzhou, says a Platts MarketInsight.

Gasoline blend

Interest in gasoline blending was heard decreasing in China, with blending components such as MTBE expected to be exported out of the country due to oversupply, market sources said.

While demand for gasoline remains firm in Sri Lanka, financial issues have prevented them from acting on that demand and purchasing gasoline, market sources said.

At 0242 GMT April 11, June ICE Brent crude oil futures were down by 1.15% from the previous Asian close April 8 at $100.42/b, S&P Global Commodities Insight data showed.

Naphtha

  • Poor derivative downstream margins weighed on demand for naphtha as a steam cracker feedstock, however its demand as a gasoline blendstock was supported as the reforming spread has remained over $20/b in April.
  • The reforming spread — the difference between FOB Singapore 92 RON gasoline swap versus FOB Singapore naphtha swap — held firm at $20.25/b at the Asian close April 8, up $3.44/b on the month and $3.09/b from the March average of $17.16/b, S&P Global data showed. The widened spread makes it economically viable for gasoline producers to use naphtha as a blendstock, sources said.
  • However bearish sentiment was seen for petrochemicals: the key CFR Northeast Asia ethylene and C+F Japan naphtha remained above the typical breakeven levels of $300-$350/mt at $482.00/mt as of April 8, the spread had fallen $29.50/mt on the week and $26.75/mt on the day, S&P Global data showed.
  • Furthermore, poor derivative downstream margins made production planning difficult, sources said. The polyethylene-naphtha margin remains below the typical breakeven of $450/mt, with the high density polyethylene film CFR Far East Asia to CFR Japan naphtha physical spread at $362.00/mt at the Asian close April 8, S&P Global data showed.
  • Naphtha-fed steam crackers in South Korea and China are expected to keep run rates low at around 80% in April, amid weak ethylene demand and high naphtha costs, according to steam cracker operators and market sources surveyed by S&P Global.

MTBE

  • Asian MTBE FOB Singapore marker is expected to be on an upward trajectory on the back of returning buying interest amid the Ramadan peak demand in Southeast Asia and spring-summer driving season in Northeast Asia.
  • Singapore’s MTBE exports rose 23.9% month on month and 323.9% year on year to 21,154 mt in February, Enterprise Singapore data showed on March 21.
  • Against the backdrop, MTBE trade volumes in the S&P Global Market on Close process in March were recorded at 13,000 mt, a 30% jump from the previous month, and a 117% spike from the same month a year ago, S&P Global data showed. The hikes in the trade volume came amid rallies in the energy complex amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Toluene

  • Asian toluene prices have steadily improved against naphtha in the last two weeks and will continue to see strength amid tight availability from Southeast Asian and Korean producers as operating rates have been reduced since March, trading sources said. The Toluene-naphtha spread jumped above the $100/mt mark on March 25, 2022 at $114/mt, according to S&P Global data. The spread was last higher Aug. 28, 2021 at $123.88/mt, S&P Global data showed.
  • Vietnam was believed to have bought 5,000 mt of toluene for gasoline blending while India’s inventory has been depleting, sources added.
  • Thailand’s SCG Chemicals’ aromatics units at both Rayong and Map Ta Phut were operating at a lower run rate of 80% in April, a source familiar with the matter said April 8. The run rates will improve slightly to 90% in May.

Isomer-MX

  • Isomer-grade mixed xylene supplies are tighter than usual due to production issues and coming turnarounds in Japan, however, demand has also been described as weak, especially in China.
  • The CFR China Iso-MX price was assessed at $1,057/mt April 8, on par with FOB Korea, S&P Global data showed.
  • Supply tightness is also coming from producers prioritizing gasoline production over MX at the moment, as gasoline has seen an upswing in margins. In the week ending April 16 a major end-user in Taiwan will also begin turnaround at one of its plants, further reducing demand for MX.

Ethanol

  • Buyers in the Philippines are expected to stay on the sidelines as ethanol values advanced. According to a source, US ethanol levels are too elevated for purchases at the end of the week, ended April 8, with buying idea sitting at below $700/cu m CFR Philippines.
  • Ethanol purchases were done earlier at the start of the week ended April 8 for Q2 delivery at levels below $740/cu m CFR Philippines, probably the last major buying as Q2 before buyers search for Q3 cargoes.
  • The Asian fuel marker climbed to $744.33/cu m on April 4 versus $732/cu m on April 1 against according to S&P Global data.

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Source: Platts

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