Throughout 2019, India’s petrochemicals segment exhibited steady growing demand and diversified investments in the country. After experiencing a lull in 2018, the overall investments rebounded in 2019 especially in areas such as rural roads, highways, housing, auto, cement & steel, and chemicals & petrochemicals. The US-China trade war has been favorable for India as exports to China have increased by 41% from 2018.
In the polyolefins segment, India is expected to experience self-sufficiency for a brief period by Q3 as new plants are expected to come online in the first half of the year. Owing to the implementation of BSVI, the availability of paraxylene and toluene is expected to increase in the aromatics value chain. The polystyrene market is expected to maintain its status quo with no new investors in the business. Margins in the petrochemical business are expected to go up in Q1 and may experience a dip in H2, as price fluctuations are expected due to global tensions amidst OPEC and non-OPEC countries. The US-China trade war is expected to create a surplus of plastics within the Chinese economy. This will force China to target growing markets like India and there could be a possibility of dumping. Imports of petrochemicals (feedstock and products) are expected to cross 20 million tons which will open up significant opportunities for domestic producers to target import substitution under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. India is considering new laws to drive up recycling and has already introduced legislation banning single-use plastics in certain applications.
The safety and environmental demands on the chemical industry are expected to intensify across the world, and India will be no exception. The MSME segment will need to rejig their portfolios and offer safer substitutes that pass scrutiny. India is expected to enhance its competitiveness in the petrochemical segment by using IT, AI, and Big Data to automate its operations and provide improvements in margins to the tune of 3 to 5%. The petrochemical chemical industry is important for the economy now and will continue to be so in the future. The industry needs to be nurtured with the right policies and fiscal support from the government. The industry also needs to exhibit responsible behaviour, in particular, in its operations. The overall outlook for the petrochemical industry in India is more positive than it was in 2019 as several state-owned energy corporations have made investments to boost petrochemical feedstock availability and extend their presence in the downstream derivatives market.