For the Fourth Quarter of 2021
Crude oil supplies had depleted by November 2021, as benzene feedstock supplies increased. The LAB market in Asia, therefore witnessed a slight drop in prices in November. However, the detergent and cleaning industry once again started to actively restock their inventories to cater to consumer requirements which led to an increase in LAB prices once again in December 2021 from 1718 USD/MT to 1908 USD/MT.
Crude oil prices demonstrated a high volatility and an increased demand in the downstream industries allowed the prices to remain most unchanged in Europe for most part of the final quarter. Feedstock availability had improved but in December the price in Germany had reached 2430 USD/MT, after a substantial fall in the prices in October and November due to the increased LAB demands in the market owing to the elevated consumption in cleaning and detergent products in the region as coronavirus started to spread yet again.
In North America, the market was bullish with steadily increasing prices during October and till mid-November. The low benzene supplies and surging prices of crude oil drove the LAB prices up. The production was low in the US, as the country recovered from the damages caused by the Ida hurricane. Spot activity was crippled and all these reasons together were a cause of concern among suppliers. In December, prices came down a bit, as raw material supply boosted and ports were unclogged, enabling offtakes in international downstream channels. LAB prices in December 2021 in Louisiana were 1840 USD/MT. The domestic demand for the personal care and household cleaning sector also stabilized in the meantime.
For First, Second and Third Quarters of 2021
In the first quarter of 2021, the LAB market in Asia witnessed a mixture of sentiments, as demand continued to remain strong from downstream products like detergents and varied from country to country in the region. Crude oil prices were high while benzene availability was low, which supported the rise in its prices in the quarter. In India, LAB prices reached from 1383 USD/MT in January 2021 to 1467.5 USD/MT in March 2021 even though demands were stable.
In quarter 2 of 2021, Asia witnessed a strong market demand backed by adequate offtakes from the surfactant sector. In India too, a similar trend followed as the second wave of corona swept across the nation and demand increased from detergent producers. Towards the end of the second quarter, LAB prices in India were 1952 USD/MT. IOCl and the Gujarat Government had signed an MoU to provide infrastructural facilities which would include tank truck loading for LAB. This was a just a small part of an immense investment to boost the transportation and production of various crucial commodities.
The market observed an upward trajectory in the third quarter of 2021. In India, crude oil prices went up and demand for downstream LABSA increased, which impacted the LAB prices in the region. The imports were not sufficient to keep up the rising demand, which also caused the prices to shoot up, as the festive season was just around the corner. LAB prices in India went from 1967 USD/MT to 2154 USD/MT in the third quarter.
In Europe, the market fundamentals for LAB differed largely from those in North America and Asia, as benzene prices followed a downward trend due to ample supplies and weak demand in the first quarter of 2021. The downstream industries had been impacted by the second wave of the coronavirus which caused the LAB demand for downstream segments to remain low. The high freight costs and shortage of shipping containers, however, stabilized the export prices. Demand outlook was mostly stable in Europe during the second quarter, amidst rising demands in both domestic and international markets. The production costs also increased, which was a major concern that led to a price hike of commodities. Cepsa, a chemical giant in Spain, revamped the manufacturing process of LAB to ensure environmental safety. This process is projected to reduce the wastes and water consumption. In Europe, the market outlook received mixed sentiments from the local market in the third quarter of 2021. The upstream benzene supply was limited which affected the market fundamentals of LAB. The demand from the surfactants industry was somewhat low, due to less operations in downstream plants in the third quarter.
In the US Gulf coast, the production activities were devastated, which halted the overall LAB output in the first quarter of 2021 in the region. Freezing weather conditions had exposed several major refineries such as Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, etc. to unprecedented turnarounds which reduced the supplies of most of the major upstream chemicals including feedstock benzene. The US had faced a shortage of benzene supply which in turn impacted the prices of the downstream products such as LAB. Close to 74% of benzene output was put to a stop in the first quarter of 2021, which caused the LAB prices to shoot up. Despite the price volatility of feedstock benzene, the prices had increased appreciably in the second quarter of 2021 in the US. The demand remained strong to support the price rise. In the meantime, the supply was also tight due to low levels of inventory in the region. Additionally, the demand from downstream segment such as detergent and Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulphonic Acid (LABSA) was high which also contributed to the upward price trends in the second quarter of 2021. Freight costs were skyrocketing in the prime trade routes, transportation activities became unstable and the global market for LAB stayed firm amidst rising tensions among suppliers.
In quarter 3 of 2021, LAB prices increased significantly in the US due to consistent demands from the detergent and other derivatives industry. In the meantime, benzene supply was limited which increased the raw material costs and added on to the constraints. Transportation difficulties and increased freight costs were also major reasons for the price rise in the region.
For the Year 2020
In 2020, the market in Asia was mostly staggering. There was little to no change in its demand fundamentals, but the traders had prompted negotiations to instigate better offtakes which somewhat shrouded the due contract prices. Demand in the cleaning and detergent industry was skyrocketing but it failed to increase the profitability as production of LAB flourished and supplies overflowed. Nevertheless, the benzene demand was increasing, and it was anticipated that LAB would soon rebound in the upcoming quarters.
In Europe, the LAB market in 2020 had remained strong in the light of increased demand for cleaning products in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. As the virus resurfaced in the region, the chemical’s consumption in the form of surfactants and other derivatives surged further. With an unforeseen turnaround in the upcoming term, the market players had been careful to not let supply outstrip the demand which may lead to reduced margins for profit.
Cleaning and surfactant products consumption was on the rise in the US in 2020, as preventive measures for Covid-19. The demand for the chemical therefore grew appreciably in the region in the second quarter of 2020, but later stabilized as panic stockpiling and procurement gradually ceased. As inventories were flooded with supplies, manufacturers bared the brunt of reduced profits while operating costs continued to remain the same. The industry however continued to experiment with new products and expressed optimism towards market recovery and improved demands in the next quarter.
Procurement Resource provides latest prices of Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB). Each price database is tied to a user-friendly graphing tool dating back to 2014, which provides a range of functionalities: configuration of price series over user defined time period; comparison of product movements across countries; customisation of price currencies and unit; extraction of price data as excel files to be used offline.
Procurement Resource provides prices of Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) for several regions around the globe, which are as follows:
About Linear Alkyl Benzene:
Linear Alkyl Benzenes, or often called the LABs, are basically a family of organic compounds. They are primarily prepared as intermediates in the manufacturing of surfactants for use in detergents. They are also used as a neutrino detector in the nuclear industry. It can be sulphonated to produce LAS, a biodegradable surfactant. It can be produced using different routes based on the requirement of LAB-derived detergents.
Ethylene can be oligomerized or partially polymerized in order to obtain linear alkenes. The resulting linear mono-olefins are made to react with benzene with the help of a catalyst, particularly hydrogen fluoride (HF) and aluminium chloride (AlCl3), to produce LAB.
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The displayed pricing data is derived through weighted average purchase price, including contract and spot transactions at the specified locations unless otherwise stated. The information provided comes from the compilation and processing of commercial data officially reported for each nation (i.e. government agencies, external trade bodies, and industry publications).
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