Chemical profile: Maleic anhydride

14 September 2007 12:42  [Source: ICB]


Maleic anhydride (MA) is mainly used in unsaturated resins (UPRs), which account for 50% of consumption. UPRs are used in the construction, marine and automotive industries. The second-biggest outlet is 1,4 butanediol (BDO) and derivatives tetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL). Other uses are found in plasticizers, surface coatings, agrochemicals, lubricants, fumaric acid and malic acid. MA is available in liquid (molten) or solid (flake) form.


European demand picked up markedly last year and this has continued into 2007, as UPRs see strong demand across all sectors. However views on growth differ widely, with some sellers and buyers agreeing that growth of 8-10% was seen, while others quote more moderate figures of 4-6%, or even less.

The market is balanced, with adequate supply, a relief from 2006, when the second half was extremely tight after a series of planned and unplanned outages. Extra volumes from Asia and chiefly China - provided some respite but imports have dropped back to more normal levels this year. A shortage of containers and China's export rebate cut have curtailed Chinese material in the past couple of months. Romania's Petrom closed its 12,000 tonne/year plant in June as part of a restructuring program.


European third-quarter (Q3) contracts for liquid are in the range €1,520-1,610/tonne. Suppliers expect to seek an increase in Q4 as butane prices continue to rise. Players say margins, which improved in 2006, have dropped this year and prices have failed to keep pace with record-high butane values. Spot prices are stable at €1,340-1,420/tonne.


MA is produced by the oxidation of benzene or butane. The butane route is considered to have superior economics and is preferred. MA can be made from butane in either fixed or fluid-bed processes, with the fluid-bed process seen as having advantages over the fixed-bed route.

High growth rates for BDO have driven the development of butane-to-BDO integrated technologies from Huntsman and BASF with Davy Process Technology and BP/Lurgi. BOC Gases and Mitsubishi Chemical have developed Petrox, a process that allows MA to be produced at low butane conversion to maximize selectivity and yield.


Demand in Europe typically grows at GDP rates, but producers expect the strong growth seen in 2006-2007 to continue in 2008. New investment is focused in Asia, mainly China. However, Huntsman, which is being bought by Hexion, is building a 45,000 tonne/year plant in Geismar, Louisiana, US, for late 2008-early 2009. South Africa's Isegen plans a 20,000 tonne/year plant in Trinidad for 2010 and Russia's OAO Acrylat talks of a 25,000-30,000 tonne/year unit for 2008-2009.

Sources see more consolidation in Europe, notably of benzene-based production.

Company Location Capacity
Bartek Chemical Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada 25
BASF Feluy, Belgium 115
Ludwigshafen, Germany 3
Compania Espanola de Petroleos (CEPSA) Algeciras, Spain 12
Cray Valley Drocourt, France 15
Derivados Maleicos Puebla, Mexico 7.5
DSM Fine Chemicals Linz, Austria 36
Elekeiroz Varzea Paulista, Brazil 30
Flint Hills Resources Joliet, Illinois, US 50
Hungarian Oil and Gas (MOL) Szazhalombatta, Hungary 20
Huntsman** Pensacola, Florida, US 110
Koksno Hemijski Kombinat Lukavac, Bosnia 10
Lanxess Baytown, Texas, US 75
Novomoskovsk Orgsyntez Novomoskovsk, Russia 12
Marathon Ashland Petroleum Neal, West Virginia, US 45
Orgachim JSC Ruse, Bulgaria 1
Polynt Bergamo, Italy* 36
Ravenna, Italy 65
Repsol YPF Ensenada, Argentina 18
Sasol-Huntsman Moers, Germany 60
Zaklady Azotowe Kedzierzyn Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland 8

NOTES: * one 18,000 tonne/year line operational, second line on standby. ** being acquired by Hexion

Source: ICIS

Profile last published September 19, 2005

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