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Asian petrochemicals are feeling the effects of Japanese production losses

March 18/2011

(ICIS) -- Asian petrochemicals are feeling the effects of Japanese production losses on Friday, a week after the massive earthquake and tsunami caused widespread devastation. Regional supply of paraxylene (PX) was notably tighter, with three Japanese facilities owned by Tokyo-headquartered JX Nippon Oil & Energy shut since 11 March.


Spot PX prices pulled back slightly on Friday, following sharp gains through the middle of the week, as JX Nippon Oil declared a force majeure on supply. Japan, a major PX exporter in the region, supplied China with 1m tonnes of the material in 2010.


Meanwhile, the main downstream market for Asian PX purified terephthalic acid (PTA) has started to suffer from tighter PX supply, with some Chinese producers bringing forward planned turnarounds at plants.


Supply of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) in Asia is also being affected by the shutdown of Japan-based Maruzen Petrochemicals 170 KTa facility in Chiba, 40km (25 miles) east of Tokyo.


The facility, damaged by fire after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami, seems unlikely to restart soon. Maruzen Petrochemical has cancelled its MEK shipments, originally due to be loaded this month, its customers said.


A few shut-down plants are slowly coming back on stream in the northeast of Japan, including two of the six shut refineries: a 175.000 bbl/day refinery in Chiba owned by Kyokuto Petroleum Industries a joint venture between US major ExxonMobil and Japan's Mitsui Oil and TonenGeneral Sekiyu's 335.000 bbl/day unit in Kawasaki.


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