Petrochemical demand for propane decreases

June 3, 2019 By    

Petrochemical companies are using less propane, contributing to lower domestic demand.

Petrochemical Consumption of Propane (Image: Cost Management Solutions)

Click to enlarge. Image: Cost Management Solutions

Petrochemical companies continue to shun propane for ethane. The chart above shows how much propane petrochemical companies are demanding. The trend is to demand less. In May, they were on pace to consume 265,000 barrels per day (bpd). The chart also shows propane’s total percentage of the feedstock stream.

Ethane was accounting for 76.6 percent of the feedstock in May, compared to 13.4 percent for propane.

The table below illustrates just how dominant ethane has been as a petrochemical feedstock.

Percentage of Total Petrochemical Feedstock Stream - petrochemical propane demand (Image: Cost Management Solutions)

Click to enlarge. Image: Cost Management Solutions

The percentages have been holding fairly steady over the last 12 months.

The U.S.-China trade war is hurting U.S. NGL exports in general. However, a major deal for China to buy ethane is in jeopardy, which is hurting ethane specifically. A major cargo originally sent to China was recently diverted to Europe.

Ethane prices averaged just 39.67 percent of Mont Belvieu LST propane’s price in May. As long as ethane remains a relatively low-priced feedstock option, petrochemical companies will continue to prefer it over propane, keeping their consumption of propane low. That will contribute to low domestic demand for propane and be bearish for prices.

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