HOUSTON, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. ethylene prices continued to rise during February, with the March New York Mercantile Exchange's (NYMEX) cleared ethylene settling and expiring at $0.54 per pound. The contract, which began trading in July 2009, settled for February last month at $0.4675 per pound. Ethylene trades in 100,000-pound lots per contract on the NYMEX's Clearport system.
In the overall cash markets, March ethylene traded up from $0.51 cents to $0.54 per pound during February, according to PetroChem Wire (PCW), a daily U.S. petrochemical industry newsletter. PCW's cash market assessments are used to settle the cleared NYMEX contracts. Typical ethylene deals are a minimum of 3 million to 5 million pounds in size, or 30 to 50 lots per trade. So far in February, more than 200 million pounds of ethylene have traded in the spot market.
"Ethylene has continued to trade higher but the increase rate has slowed, in the sense that so far in February, prices are up about 4 cents, while in January they gained nearly 10 cents," said Kathy Hall, executive editor of PCW. "So far in 2010, ethylene prices have been driven by supply concerns, and its price increases have outpaced those in its largest downstream market, polyethylene resins."
Maximum steam cracker operating rates in the U.S. Gulf were above 90% during February. Maximum operating rates were at 89% for steam crackers in Texas and 93% in Louisiana, a combined rate for the region of 91%.
By comparison, steam cracker operating rates a year ago were around 65%, and spot ethylene was trading at $0.27 per pound.
Steam crackers in Texas and Louisiana produce more than 95% of the country's ethylene. The 26 steam crackers in Texas and 10 in Louisiana produce a combined total of about 150 million pounds of ethylene each day.
Ethylene is a building block chemical used in the production of plastic resins and a variety of solvent chemicals, all used in major consumer manufacturing products.
For more information on the chemical benchmark of ethylene, visit www.petrochemwire.com.
The PetroChem Wire is a daily newsletter serving the petrochemical industry. It counts every major petrochemical and refining company among its subscribers, as well as many major manufacturing concerns, global conglomerates, industry consultants, equity analysts and government agencies.
SOURCE PetroChem Wire