Covid-19 Shakes Up Plastics World Order

SourceThe Wall Street Journal

The shale boom was also a bonanza for American plastic producers. A business that had been struggling became world-beating as cheap natural gas gave it an edge over competitors across the Atlantic and Pacific. But the coronavirus pandemic has leveled the playing field. In the last 10 years, U.S.-based petrochemical companies Westlake Chemical and LyondellBasell Industries have roughly tripled and doubled in value, respectively, alongside the fracking revolution. Asian producers such as Sinopec Shanghai and Lotte Chemical have declined in value. A collapse in oil prices had a dual effect, bringing down the cost of non-U.S. companies’ feedstock while choking off excess gas co-produced from oil wells in the Permian Basin and often sold for pennies. Natural-gas prices are 25% higher than where they were in the more...