Here are my thoughts and opinions on some of the highlights from our surfactant conference held recently in Singapore. This was the 4th in Asia and the 11th in the series of conferences, produced by me and ICIS. It was the biggest and, in my opinion, the best yet. Opening up the proceedings, I gave some introductory remarks, building on my theme for 2014, which is “What have Surfactants done for us?” This of course, building on a classic sketch from Monty Python.
First, in news which hit the last week in October, Stepan’s third-quarter net income fell by 34% year on year, as a result of weak North American surfactants performance. According the company surfactant results were dragged down by lower workhorse surfactant volumes for its North American consumer products, specifically in the laundry sector. Now, this will have been no surprise to any of the ~200 of you who attended our Surfactants Conference back in May in NY. Our keynote speaker, Quinn Stepan, highlighted the challenges the company faced in the laundry sector as formulation trends have impacted surfactant loading. These trends, specifically the use of enzymes and the surge in monodose, took a big bite out of workhorse surfactant demand in this sector. Quinn frankly stated that the size, and speed, of this bite took the market by surprise. Having said that, Stepan, as Quinn emphasized, sees some compensatory upside in the future, particularly in the oil and gas sector.
Meanwhile in the European EO market, the contract price dropped €45/tonne in line with an ethylene decrease .According to ICIS, unverified production problems at a European plant have resulted in customers having to seek material from other sellers, market participants said.
Neil A Burns LLC: Some of the information and opinion here was provided by my attending and chairing the 3rd ICIS European Surfactant Conference which finished today (Friday September 5th) in Berlin. An outstanding event which I am happy to co-produce with the ICIS conference team. A special mention and thanks to all the attendees at the Surfactant Business Essentials Training Course which I taught in Berlin on Sept 2nd. Some of their comments and questions provided some of the food for thought also for this review.
The big news of the month was of course that Stepan has finally taken the plunge and sought out a site in the US Gulf Coast area. The company announced discussions about a site to make “surfactants intermediates” in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Of course the other famous occupant of this Parish in Louisiana is Shell’s Geismar site where, among other things, ethylene oxide (EO) and various Neodol alcohols are made. Stepan is a large user of both.
Welcome again to our monthly surfactant news update. As usual, most items are sourced courtesy of my friends at ICIS and some of the links may require a subscription. Nonetheless, the responsibility for any errors or omissions is entirely mine. Also the opinions expressed are entirely my own. I hope you enjoy reading. For the latest information, analysis and unequalled networking around the surfactant value chain, please attend our 3-day surfactant event in Berlin, September 3 – 5th. We have partnered with the BIO-TIC group of CEFIC who are running a biosurfactants conference alongside our 3rd European Surfactants Conference. I hope to see many of you there.
May was a big month in surfactants, not least because we held our largest ever surfactants conference in NYC; May 15 – 16th, preceded by our business essentials training course. In Asia, Prices of linear alkylbenzene sulphonate (LAS) remained stable, according to ICIS…. A northeast Asian seller said it was not offering any material this week, but would express selling ideas at $1,550/tonne CFR
I was again honored to co-produce and chair the ninth surfactant conference in our series with ICIS. This time – the fourth World conference, held in New York at the Jersey City Hyatt hotel. The venue was packed with over 200 participants in the surfactant value chain. You will get a sense of the agenda here.
The month of April saw quite a bit of activity in ethylene oxide, ethoxylation and fatty alcohols. Also, of course, the Wilmar acquisition of major parts of the Huntsman European surfactant business contributed to the continuing restructuring of the industry.
The Month in Surfactants : March 2014 The month of March kicked off with concerns about a general slowdown in China and the impact on the surfactant value chain. Let’s take a look in some detail at the China EO / MEG and derivatives sector: According to ICIS, China’s domestic ethanolamines prices are likely to face further downward pressure amid a deteriorating monoethylene glycol (MEG) market and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. EO (ethylene oxide) prices are dropping amid oversupply and a weakening end – use market for surfactants in consumer and industrial goods in China. Spot MEG prices fell $41-42/MT in the week ended 21 February to $933-946/tonne CFR CMP (China Main Port), down by about 7% from $1,005-1,011/MT CFR CMP four weeks ago, the ICIS data showed. The spot MEG prices have been undermined by a massive build-up of inventories and sluggish domestic demand following the Lunar New Year holidays in the first half of February. MEG stocks along the eastern China coast hit a record high of 1.14m tonnes in the week ended 21 February, according to ICIS data. Market players expect the stocks to continue growing as end-users remain hesitant to pick up cargoes…
A review of the surfactants markets and business for January and February of 2014. Our first review of the surfactants markets in 2014 will cover January and February. Thereafter, we will try to get these out on a Monthly basis for easier and more timely reading. As usual, many of the news items come courtesy of my friends at ICIS. Many of the links are to ICIS articles and some need a subscription. As regular readers know, the best way to stay current in the surfactants markets is to attend one of our conferences produced in partnership with ICIS. We will have three in 2014. The next one comes up on New York, The 4th ICIS World Surfactant Conference on May 15 – 16th in NYC, features Quinn Stepan Jr. as our keynote speaker. I look forward to seeing many readers there.
For the first time, we have been persuaded to put forward an “Outlook” for surfactants in the coming year. All projections and predictions are, by definition, wrong as soon as they are made. What I provide here are some ideas about what could happen that I recommend you bear in mind as you plan and execute your surfactant business in the next 12 months.
For the last quarter of 2013, I have summarized key news from the surfactants market, aided as usual by the capable global news team at ICIS. A few of the links in the review point to ICIS articles (most of these need a subscription). As always, your inputs and critiques are welcome. For more exclusive surfactant information and networking, I will see you at our 4th ICIS World Surfactants Conference in NYC, May 15 – 16th, 2014.
3rd ICIS Asian Surfactants Conference As we do periodically, I am happy to bring you a summary of what I think were the key points from the 3rd ICIS Asian Surfactants Conference in Singapore, November 14th and 15th. As you know, for the full benefit of these events, you just have to be there and I encourage you to join us at future surfactant conferences in Asia, Europe and the USA. In my opening remarks, we discussed the global surfactant supply chain and how different companies pursue strategies which depend on the specific part of the value chain that they occupy. We studied the latest update of the surfactant vertical integration grid and located a number of company groupings focused on very different sections of the business. We also discussed some recent company investments that highlighted their approach to vertical integration. Next up, Sarah Yarger Kienzle, managing partner of Linden Tree Partners gave a global updated of the surfactant market. One fascinating piece of data (for me) centered on the per capita consumption of surfactants for different regions of the world. The mature market consumption is dropping on a per capita basis, while emerging market are growing. The North American…
As many of our regular readers know, we are producing, with ICIS, a series of surfactants training courses. We typically hold these the day before the ICIS Surfactant Conferences globally, (3 per year) with the occasional stand-alone course held alongside other petrochemicals related ICIS events in London and New York. Our next course is coming up in Singapore on November 13th. Details here http://www.icis.com/training/petrochemicals/surfactants/ The courses are commercial in focus and are particularly suited to executives in sales, purchasing, general management and ownership. The Agenda: Understanding surfactants What are surfactants? Classes of surfactants Major applications of surfactants Production routes to surfactants Key raw materials – petrochemicals, oleochemicals Other emerging feedstocks Major manufacturing processes Exercise – Building the surfactants value chain Industry Structure Demand and supply drivers Demand across geographies Who are the major players and their strategies Group Quiz Price and cost drivers What are the key price drivers? How are prices set? Influence of raw material costs How are prices assessed? Future Trends New developments in the surfactants industry Demand and supply outlook Feedstock availability Key issues facing the industry – environmental, regulatory, supply chain
I have summarized key news from the surfactants market, aided substantially by the news team at ICIS. A number of links in the article point to ICIS articles (most need a subscription). As always, your inputs and critiques are welcome. For more up to the minute surfactant information and networking, I will see you at the 3rd ICIS Asian Surfactants Conference in Singapore, November 14th and 15th.
As we usually do on a quarterly basis, I have summarized key news from the surfactants market, aided substantially by the news team at ICIS. A number of links in the article point to ICIS articles (most need a subscription). As always, your inputs and critiques are welcome. For more up to the minute surfactant information and networking, I will see you at the 2nd ICIS European Surfactants Conference in Brussels, September 12th and 13th.