Petrotahlil - Indian petrochemical producers are starting to, or considering, increasing production rates as the country eases Covid-19 restrictions.
The Indian government announced plans for a fourth phase of Covid-19 restrictions this week with details yet to emerge. The country is scheduled to emerge from a nationwide lockdown on 17 May. The third phase saw the easing of restrictions allowing industries to start resuming production. Rail and road transportation restrictions were also eased during this phase.
Most key producers are looking at raising operating rates at crackers and key downstream units, amid growing expectations that consumer demand will increase in the coming month or so.
"Downstream [markets] have started picking up so we expect things will get better," said a key producer.
Private-sector conglomerate Reliance Industries (RIL) is currently operating its crackers at its Jamnagar complex at full operating rates, following a dip in production in late March and April when the country's Covid-19 lockdown started on 25 March.
RIL produces 1.5mn t/yr of ethylene from its Jamnagar-based cracker, with another 930,000 t/yr from its cracker in Hazira. Both crackers are integrated with downstream units producing polyethylene (PE) and ethylene glycol (MEG).
Indian state-controlled refiner Bharat Petroleum is considering increasing production in the coming week at its refinery-linked units producing propylene in Mumbai and Kochi. It has been operating at about 60pc since the lockdown started. It can produce 70,000 t/yr of propylene in Mumbai and another 500,000 t/yr of propylene in Kochi.
But demand from downstream markets in western India is also dependent on the easing of lockdowns in key consumer centres like Mumbai.
"A lot depends on whether the Maharashtra government will extend the lockdown in Mumbai," said another key producer, with around 20pc of the total coronavirus cases in India in Mumbai.
India's state-controlled Gail is also looking at resuming production at some of its downstream PE lines in north India's Pata in the coming week. It halted output at some of its production lines during the lockdown with operating rates remaining at about 50pc. Gail can produce around 900,000 t/yr of high-density polyethylene/linear low-density polyethylene. The two crackers in Pata can also produce about 900,000 t/yr of ethylene, although no details were available on its current operating rate.
Haldia Petrochemicals boosted production this week at its 700,000 t/yr ethylene cracker in east India's West Bengal, following a restart in late April. It was operating at around 70pc following the restart. Haldia shut its cracker on 23 March and declared force majeure on supplies before the lockdown was announced on 24 March.
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