In 2020, much of the polyester industry buckled under the strain brought on by the global pandemic. However, with all the challenges, there is also opportunity in a post-pandemic world. This is especially true for those who can adapt to what is happening and what is yet to come.
The forces shaping the industry are now vastly different from what they were before we first began hearing about a virus sweeping across the world. And even further, change is on the horizon. The composition of the market will likely look much different in the next decade.
The prominent players in the polyester field are getting even bigger and more dominant in their areas. In only a decade, capacities have increased by around .5 Mt to 2.5 Mt. By 2030; a global producer could achieve 3 Mt, or even more.
Key polyester producers will increase in scale, size, and complexity. The trend here is expansion into other product grades. This includes creating a more comprehensive product range, including packaging and weaving, fabric, clothing, and retail.
Polyester producers are also amalgamating to become olefin producers and refiners. This may eventually lead to gas and oil exploration. Ultimately, polyester producers could become significant players in crude-to-chemical production.
Settling contract prices through negotiations between buyers and sellers is becoming a thing of the past. Going forward, pricing mechanisms are likely to be much different. Spot business is beginning to play a more significant role, and physical spot trading will likely remain important. However, it will play a progressively more complementary role to futures markets. As such, futures pricing will play a larger role in determining physical, spot price trends in the industry. As product slates diversify, cross-commodity hedging and trading will also begin to play a larger role.
Like so many other industries, the polyester sector is doing business in creative new ways. The pandemic has brought on a new era of conducting business via digital platforms instead of relying on physical interaction. The digital world is rapidly evolving, and technologies like blockchain could be the building blocks of a future of online trading.
The massive disruption in supply chains because of the pandemic is making most industries re-think business models. This is reinforcing a trend of self-reliance that was slowly emerging over the past 10 years or so. China is no longer seen as the only option when it comes to polyester imports. This could have significant implications for international trade, and we expect production to diversify and include growth outside of China.
Taking center stage, sustainability is a growing concern. Polyester producers have faced criticism for the environmental impact their products have. Since polyester is one of the most recyclable petrochemical products, there is tremendous industry scope to drive the sustainability charge. Limiting carbon emissions is becoming a core theme in business models. Producers are also looking at improving recyclability and exploring more eco-friendly production methods.
Change is inevitable, and it’s underway. As polyester producers are moving into a digital transformation, they are also evolving into sustainable industry players in the chemical world.