28 June 2004 00:01 [Source: ICB]
The largest use for methyl methacrylate (MMA) is in polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) which is used as a substitute for glass in products such as car tail lights and lighting fixtures. A major application is in surface coatings, notably emulsion polymers for architectural and maintenance paints.
Methyl methacrylate-butadiene-styrene (MBS) resins are used as an impact modifier for clear rigid PVC and in food and pharmaceutical packaging. MMA can partially replace styrene in unsaturated polyester resins to give better weather resistance and longer life.
Global markets are tight as strong demand and production problems hit availability. Demand in Europe is good while Asian markets are booming. US demand has firmed and is outpacing supply as acetone shortages restrict output. Several European producers have had operating problems, stocks are very low and some customers are on sales control. Spot business is very limited as material is scarce.
Supply is expected to remain tight worldwide as Asia has a big shutdown programme in the second half of 2004 and no new capacity is due until 2005. The European merchant market is expected to show growth of 6-7% in 2004 over 2003, with Asia tipped at 12-15%. Global markets are said to have grown by 5-10% in 2003 versus 2002.
Producers posted increases of €120-160/tonne in quarter two after prices fell in quarter one by up to €40/tonne. Hikes of about €60-80/tonne have been achieved taking the current range to €1440-1485/tonne FD NWE. Suppliers are targeting further increases of €140-160/tonne in quarter three as raw materials look set to rise again. Spot prices are notional at €1200-1250/tonne.
About 80% of world capacity is based on acetone cyanohydrin. Acetone and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) are reacted to produce acetone cyanohydrin. Sulphuric acid converts the cyanohydrin to methacrylamide sulphate, which is treated with a methanol/water mixture and heated to form MMA and ammonium bisulphate. Some production in Japan is based on isobutylene or tert-butyl alcohol feedstocks.
With problems in disposing of the bisulphate waste and handling HCN, much effort has been devoted to finding alternative routes. Eastman Chemical, Research Triangle Institute and Bechtel have developed a three-step syngas process and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical has commercialised an acetone cyanohydrin route without ammonium sulphate byproduct.
Lucite is ready to commercialise its Alpha process which is based on ethylene, methanol and carbon monoxide. A site decision is due in quarter three. A first plant would become operational by 2008 and a second is planned soon after.
MMA is a clear, colourless liquid with an ester-like odour. It is volatile and highly flammable and its heavy vapour can roll long distances and flashback. The vapour is irritating to the eyes, nose and throat and skin contact can lead to sensitivity.
Global growth is put at 3-5%/year although Asia will see much higher rates as demand into LCD screens boosts MMA needs. Poor returns have limited investment and new capacity next year will provide little relief to the global tightness, say sources.
Lucite’s 100 000 tonne/year plant in Caojing, China, and Sumitomo’s 80 000 tonne/year unit in Singapore will start up in mid-2005. More projects in Asia are being considered by Mitsubishi Rayon, Asahi Kasei, Sumitomo Chemical and others.
|Repsol YPF||Tarragona, Spain||45|
|Cyro Industries||Avondale, Louisiana, US||132|
|Lucite||Beaumont, Texas, US||160|
|Memphis, Tennessee, US||165|
|Rohm & Haas||Deer Park, Texas, US||475|
|Asahi Kasei||Kawasaki, Japan||70|
|Formosa Plastics||Mailiao, Taiwan||70|
|Honam Petrochemical||Yosu, South Korea||40|
|Kaohsiung Monomer||Kaohsiung, Taiwan||100|
|Kyodo Monomer||Takaishi, Japan||40|
|LG MMA||Yosu, South Korea||100|
|Mitsubishi Gas Chemical||Niigata, Japan||50|
|Mitsubishi Rayon||Ohtake, Japan||215|
|Nippon Shokubai||Niihama, Japan||80|
|Singapore MMA Monomer||Pulau Sakra, Singapore||53|
|Sumitomo Chemical||Niihama, Japan||45|
|Sumitomo Chemical/Nippon Shokubai||Himeji, Japan||50|
|Thai MMA||Map Ta Phut, Thailand||70|
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