Energy and commodities highlights: Hormuz tensions, trading houses vs NOCs, recycled plastics

After a calmer start to the week in geopolitics, US-Iran tensions erupted again on July 18 when President Donald Trump said the US Navy had shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. Brent crude prices responded with a near 2% increase by in Singapore morning trading hours. However, the impact of US sanctions on Iran and hostilities in the Persian Gulf on oil prices has been blunted

Energy and commodity highlights: Tanker attacks, biofuels and oil, spiraling naphtha prices oil markets were jolted late in the week by reports of attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on June 13. Brent crude futures climbed almost 4% immediately after the attacks. ICE Brent eventually settled $1.34 higher at $61.31/b, and was trading higher the morning of June 14. The US was quick to blame the attack on Iran, saying it was orchestrated by the country’s Islamic

Saudi Aramco’s riches disguise its risks: Fuel for Thought

Saudi Aramco is by far the most profitable company on the planet and produces more oil than any other single entity, but there are still doubts about the viability of its stalled initial public offering. The problem for Aramco is that its weaknesses are as obvious as its strengths. Riyadh’s dream of raising $100 billion by selling a 5% stake in the state-owned oil giant had seemed entirely dead until

Houston’s shipping bottleneck could curb expansion of major US oil and petchems hub

An impasse has emerged between key operators on the Houston Ship Channel, a critical lifeline for growing US energy exports, as thriving activity in both tanker and container shipping has exacerbated competition for space. Before August 2018, fog shutdowns were the main hindrance to ship traffic in and out of Houston, the second-largest petrochemical port in the world. However, that month the first container ship to exceed 1,100 feet in

Tariffs frustrate US-China trade in plastic resins and finished products

Trade in polyethylene resin and finished products slowed in the fourth quarter of 2018, becoming a casualty of the US-China trade war. Last year, the Trump Administration launched a full-scale trade war with China, imposing three rounds of tariffs worth a cumulative $250 billion on Chinese products. The move was intended to counter China’s practice of requiring US companies to turn over intellectual property as a condition for gaining access

Mixed outlook for European petrochemicals in 2019 as market digests new trade flows

US-China trade tensions were in the spotlight last year across commodity markets, and the petrochemicals sector was by no means untouched. Antidumping duties introduced by China on the imports of some origins of styrene – used to make packaging and other plastic and synthetic rubber products – altered trade flows significantly. One result has been an increase in trading activity within Europe. Growing plastics and fibres demand was behind supply

Is European recycling up to the plastic waste challenge?

This is the concluding article in a three-part series exploring oil, plastics demand and sustainability. European governments and corporates are setting ambitious goals on plastics recycling, but there are practical and economic hurdles to get over if the policies are to be a success. Not only do some countries’ domestic markets lag behind, but there is a general reliance on material from countries such as Germany and the Netherlands where

The Middle East’s petrochemicals push signals oil’s future

This is the second installment in a three-part series exploring oil, plastics demand and sustainability. Plastics and chemicals will account for the largest share of global crude demand growth by 2030, and a third wave of petrochemicals expansion underway in the Middle East is looking to cash in on the trend,  as investment into downstream petroleum industries will become a critical demand driver for oil markets in the future. Industrialized

Consumer push for sustainability masks massive growth in plastic demand

This is the first installment in a three-part series exploring oil, plastics demand and sustainability. Barely a week goes by without another headline decrying the use of plastics and plastic packaging in Europe. Plastics are clogging up our oceans, overflowing our landfill sites and even finding their way into our food. But as the world wakes up to the environmental damage caused by plastic waste and pollution, it may come