BMI Industry View
Iran's petrochemicals exports have been boosted by the lifting of sanctions, opening the possibility for major inward investment in the years ahead. In the first three months of FY2016/17, petrochemicals comprised over a third of Iran's exports with 27.9mn tonnes sold on external markets worth a total of USD3.54bn. Iran projects that its total petrochemicals output will reach 54.7mn tonnes in FY2016/17, an increase of 18% that will be based on exports and supported by increased capacity utilisation and new plants coming onstream.
NPC has said the country's petrochemical output could increase by nearly 12% in FY2016/17 due to capacity expansion and export recovery. NPC plans to launch 15 new petrochemical units by FY2016/17, thereby increasing the country's capacity by 8.5mn tonnes.
A number of projects are due to be completed by 2016. The government has already confirmed the 14th olefins complex, which will be built at Firouzabad and produce 1mn tonnes per annum (tpa) ethylene, and the 15th olefins complex, planned at Genaveh with 500,000tpa of ethylene. The 17th olefins complex will be built at Dehloran in Ilam Province by Dehloran Petrochemical Company, and will have a mixed-feed cracker with the capacity to produce 607,000tpa ethylene.
The 16th olefins and methanol complex is already being constructed by Bushehr Petrochemical Company as part of Phase II of the Pars special economic zone (SEZ) at Asaluyeh, with capacity for 1mn tpa ethylene and 1.65mn tpa methanol.
However, sanctions relief has been insufficient to raise domestic demand for petrochemicals. At issue is the decline in the funding for construction projects, a decline in demand for housing and the growing recession in the industrial sector. Domestic producers of various goods - including petrochemicals - are reliant on selling to state-owned enterprises that are, in turn, dependent on the government buying their products.
Dueto low oil prices and government subsidies largely being extended to consumers rather than producers, local industry is faced with major problems and demand is low.
■ Domestic consumption is set to rise over the next five years. The automotive industry is undergoing a resurgence of activity as a result of economic recovery. We forecast total vehicle production to grow 11.2% in 2016, and at an annual average of 10.8% to 2020. This will, in turn, stimulate domestic consumption of a wide range of petrochemicals used in car-making, including synthetic rubber, engineering plastics and polyurethanes.
■ The construction industry is set for slightly better growth than previously forecast, which should improve the market performance of construction-related petrochemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and certain applications of polyethylene (PE) and PP. We forecast 4.5% y-o-y real construction industry growth in Iran in 2016, but have reduced our five-year average growth from 6.1% to 5.9% as a result of the effect of low oil prices on the economy.
• Existing capacity could spur massive growth in output, although feedstock problems will place a constraint on growth. To operate at reasonable levels of capacity utilisation, olefins output would have to increase by one-third and polymers by one-third. BMI believes that, even with the rates of growth observed in recent months, capacity utilisation rates will remain suboptimal in FY2016/17.
• By 2021, Iran hopes to have achieved total production capacity of 90mn tpa with natural gas contributing around 50% of the feedstock. BMI forecasts that by 2020, ethylene capacity alone will total 12.28mn tpa upon the completion of the Olefins 11 and 12 projects, which will have capacities of 2.0mn tpa and 1.2mn tpa respectively.
• This quarter, Iran has seen a 0.7 point increase in its overall Petrochemicals Risk/Reward Index (RRI) score to 64.3, due to an eight-point increase in its market risk score. This comes following the lifting of sanctions and growing investor interest in the petrochemicals sector and strong post-sanctions export growth. Further detailed investment agreements could hike the score further. However, significant obstacles to investment remain, and further reform to investment regulations is necessary, alongside infrastructural improvements, if Iran is to match its Arabian Gulf neighbours. It remains in third place - it falls 1.7 points behind the UAE in the regional RRI rankings, but has increased its lead over Kuwait to 4.1 points.