PTT of Thailand puts full backing behind exports drive


PHOTO: Thumbs up – Part of the delegation from PTT Polymer Marketing of Thailand who hosted the Polymers Solutions Seminar at the Hyatt Regency in Rosebank in May

IT WASN’T quite a Thai kick boxing festival, but the visiting delegates from polymers manufacturer PTT of Thailand put on an impressive show during the International Polymer Solutions Seminar they hosted in Johannesburg in May.

The event at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank on 10 May was co-hosted by PTT Polymer Marketing’s local partners, Emeraude group and distributor Advanced Polymers. It was also the 21st edition of PTT’s international polymers seminar (the Thai integrated petrochemicals manufacturer hosts the event at various locations outside of Thailand annually) and, man, it’s got to be said, the Thai contingent were upbeat de lux!

There’s certainly no harm in having some fun and getting to know customers in foreign markets and, it soon became apparent, the PTT team are fully up to speed with global polyolefins market trends and were well informed about the Southern Africa market too, possibly even more so than many in the local market themselves.

With parent group PTT supplying an estimated 280,000 barrels of oil a day, the polymer marketing company has built on the springboard and is now a global scale polymers supplier with an output of approximately 1.59-million tons a year of its InnoPlus range of materials. It manufactures 67 grades of polyethylene (HD, LD and linear), including metallocene grades and rotational moulding grades, as well as polypropylene and polystyrene and, based on the thrust of the seminar and presentations, is very actively pursuing markets for all these materials.

It supplies convertors in more than 100 countries and has international offices in Dubai in the UAE, Guangzhou and Shanghai in China and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, suggesting that it is particularly well established in the Middle and Far East.

The focus at the Johannesburg seminar was threefold: to introduce its BioPBS and bio compounds biodegradable grades and its X-purge purge compound as well as provide a global polymers market update, with each providing interest for the SA delegates.

It also presented two new PE grades: an HD for intermediate bulk containers and an LD for baby diapers.


Market trends

According to PTT Polymer Marketing chairman Pisutpunya Narongchai, prices for virtual all polymer materials are moving up now, tracking those of oil which have been moving up over the past year and breached the $70 a barrel level recently. This is at least partly a result of the global economic upswing, underway from mid-2016, he added. Pundits have previously played down the direct link between oil and polymer prices, due to other factors in place, but the PTT presentation left no doubt that the prices of oil and polymers are following a similar trend at present.

Global demand for polyethylene is expected to accelerate, from an estimated of 100 million tons this year to a projected 125 million over the next five years to 2023. Demand for HD is expected to grow at 4% but production is increasing at a lower rate, which indicates supply will remain tight. Main markets for HD are film/sheet at 28% and blow moulding at 25. HD demand in Africa is also set to increase at 4%, he added, with Egypt (19%), Algeria (18%), South Africa (17%), Nigeria (14%) and Morocco (12%) being the main markets. About 1,5 million tons of HD is expected to be imported into Africa a year up till 2022. South Africa is also expected to import about 150 million tons/yr of HD at the current rate.

Polypropylene supply is also expected to be short. PP remains the most consumed polymer globally with demand running at 65 million tpa in 2016, significantly ahead of HD (45 million/yr) and, surprisingly, PVC at 42,5. Linear stands at 30 and LD at 23 million tons a year according to the PTT stats. Africa is expected to import about a million tons of PP a year, whereas South Africa remains a net exporter of PP.

Linear consumption is growing at a slightly higher rate of 5% internationally, with film and sheet accounting for 79% of consumption. Demand in Africa is slightly ahead of the global figure, which suggests that packaging use on the continent will continue on an upward trajectory. Imports of linear into Africa are expected to run at about a million tons a year, with about 100,000 tons expected to enter South Africa.


BioPBS™ / Ingeo™

A variety of PTT’s materials are now available in ‘bio-based’ and biodegradable forms, including Bio-PE, Bio-PET and Bio-PBS (polybutylene succinate, a biodegradable polyester resin); in fact, PTT is offering virtually all its materials in either ‘bio-content’ or biodegradable forms.

The Ingeo™ materials offer a different solution to Bio-PBS, with different performance features, which is an important aspect of the new drive to offer the same material performance but in an environmentally acceptable way.

PTT Global Chemical also owns 50% in PLA manufacturer NatureWorks as well as in BioPBS, a venture by Mitsubishi Chemical of Japan producing biodegradable renewable plastic materials.

This initiative by the Thai material manufacturer comes in response to legislation changes in some of the markets into which it supplies, such as Italy (ban on plastic carrier bags); France (ban on bags but permitted if compliant with increasing bio contact levels); India (ban on bags in some cities); and further afield.