On the face of it, lower oil prices cut input costs for chemical companies and boost their margins. But with consumption of some transport fuels in freefall, refineries do not need to be run as hard, and may cut production even further.
"Refineries won’t be producing quite as much diesel or gasoline," says Mark Porter, global head of the chemicals at consultancy Bain & Company.
As refiners slow down, the supply of some chemical feedstocks is squeezed and prices are rising – particularly with increasing demand for plastic packaging and personal protective equipment (PPE). The misalignment in supply versus demand balances has yet to hit much of the chemical chain.