Petrotahlil - Demand for general grade polypropylene (PP) remains weak in China despite the country increasing production of surgical masks to meet demand from the coronavirus outbreak.
China's surgical mask production reached 116mn/d on 29 February, 12 times output at the start of the month.
Output is expected to rise further this month with Chinese state-controlled producer Sinopec building 10 new spun-bound and melt-blown non-woven PP fabric plants. Of this, two units at Beijing Yanshang Petrochemical are due to start up on 8 March with another eight units at Yizheng Chemical Chemicals starting production in mid-April. These plants can produce 3.6mn high-protection N95 masks or 18mn normal medical masks.
Consumption in 2019 of the non-woven fiber grade grade of PP used to make surgical masks was 1.7mn t/yr, which only made up 7pc of China's total PP production.
The impact of the increased output of the non-woven fiber grade has still been insufficient to boost overall PP demand this year. The biggest source of demand for PP is from the woven bags, home appliances, construction material and packaging sectors, which continues to see reduced consumption from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sinopec and fellow state-controlled producer PetroChina's PP and polyethylene inventories touched a historical high of 1.6mn t in mid-February compared with a typical 700,000-800,000t before easing to the current 1.2mn t.
Sinopec had already trimmed PP output by 20-30pc at its main production plants in east China. CNOOC Shell, Ningbo Formosa and methanol-to-olefins-based PP producers have opted for full shutdowns at their units amid mounting sales pressure. A large number of factories in Wenzhou and Taizhou — the main woven bags and washing machine production hubs — have continued to put off plans to resume production because of a lack of workers and weak consumer demand.
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Source : Argus