Ethane prices had been expected to begin their long-awaited improvement this summer, but that progress appears to be getting stunted once again.
Ethane prices had the largest decrease the first full week of July as it remains closely related to gas prices, which tumbled this week. Ethane was also hurt by the continued outage of several crackers undergoing expansions or maintenance.
NGL prices were largely stagnant, with a slight trend down at the end of June as they followed losses for natural gas price and crude. Overall, NGL prices largely remained flat compared to the levels posted in the second quarter.
There were notable price increases for butane and isobutane, which are benefitting from increased crude prices. In addition, propane prices rose at both Mont Belvieu and Conway as the uncertainty in Iraq and its hydrocarbon production is also causing a mild run-up in its value.
NGL prices rose across the board at both hubs, aside from Conway isobutane, which continued to plummet. The full reasoning behind the high premium and the sharp drop in value of Midcontinent isobutane prices has yet to be determined.
The Conway isobutane price spike came to an abrupt end the first week of June with a 14% loss in value that saw its premium over Mont Belvieu prices get slashed in half. Capacity in the region is returning, which is providing an outlet for the product.
Current demand levels for NGL are flat, but market dynamics support price improvements in the near-term. Both ethane cracking and petrochemical capacity are expected to increase shortly as plant turnarounds and expansions are nearing completion.
Summer is fast approaching and should finally lead to increased cooling demand that will help improve gas prices.
NGL prices continued to falter with only Conway E-P mix and isobutane experiencing improvements at either hub. However, neither of these increases were major upticks as the NGL market remained firm during this shoulder season.
NGL prices continued to trend downward the first week of May as the combination of a natural price downturn related to the shoulder season combined with several ethylene plants that went down for unscheduled maintenance.
The final full week of April saw NGL prices continue to perform on similar levels as last year, aside from propane, C5+ and Conway isobtuane.
There has been a great deal of volatility in NGL prices throughout the past 12 months, but in many cases the trail for prices has been a circular one.