CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Petrochemicals markets complexity is only going to grow and grow

JOHN RICHARDSON | May 13, 2021

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NICE WORK, if you get can get it. A trucking company in Fort Worth, Texas, is offering to pay experienced drivers $14,000 a week – $728,000 a year – as the US struggles with a nationwide shortage of truckers or lorry drivers.
This reminds me of perhaps an apocryphal tale, from the height of the last Australian mining boom. Before iron ore prices collapsed in late 2014, there was a story about workers at mining site road junctions who operated manual “Stop and Go” signs. They were said to be earning more than Australian dollar (A$) 200,000 a year.

Before you pack in your job as, say, a petrochemicals sales manager and head to Texas or mine sites in Western Australia, there is the risk that when you arrive at the door of your new prospective employer, the bubble might have already burst. This is assuming we are in bubble conditions.The pressure is clearly building in petrochemicals and other commodity markets as prices in some regions remain at record highs or continue to rise.

Today’s prices are the results of shortages of commodities supply (for example in petrochemicals, an outcome of the US winter storms), very strong demand and supply chain disruptions.I am beginning to believe that the latter is the biggest reason for commodity price inflation which is feeding through into sharp rises in the cost of finished goods – and a lack of goods availability.

It is delivering and manufacturing enough stuff that seems to be at the heart of today’s problems due to shortages of everything from container freight space and semiconductors to wooden pallets, tin cans, metal drums, cardboard – and US truck drivers.

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