Arkema lifts acrylates force majeure at Carling amid chaotic market

11 May 2010 12:51  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--Arkema has lifted a force majeure declaration on acrylic acid and acrylate esters from its plant in Carling, France, after bringing the facility back into production, a company source said on Tuesday. 

The declaration, effective from 11 April, came after an “unexpected technical incident” forced Arkema to temporarily shutter the 275,000 tonne/year plant. It was lifted on Monday afternoon.

“The problems seem to be behind us now,” the Arkema source said.

The company had sent a letter to customers informing them that it would supply at regular volumes beginning 1 May, but last week market players said it was not clear if that was happening. 

Difficulty obtaining feedstock propylene kept the declaration in place longer than initially planned, but production was now running at nameplate capacity, the source said.

“The demand is really much stronger than anything we can do at the moment,” said the source. “If customers feel that they’re not getting all the volume they want, that’s why.”

The source said it hoped the restart, and the lifting of force majeure, would calm the troubled and tight market, which has seen both spot and contract prices soar in recent weeks.

Last week, spot prices for all European acrylates were assessed up by €50/tonne ($64/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) at the top end of the range, according to global chemical intelligence service ICIS pricing.

That left prices for butyl acrylate at €2,200-2,350/tonne FD NWE; for methyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate at €2,100-2,200/tonne FD NWE; and for 2 ethyl hexl acrylate at €2,200-2,350/tonne.

Meanwhile, European producers were seeking increases ranging from €150-250/tonne FD NWE for May free negotiated contracts. 

In Asia, acrylate prices surged last week by nearly $360/tonne, to a 15-year high, on the back of strong demand and high prices in the US market.

The US market has been rocked by a string of planned and unplanned production outages that have brought spot cargoes of acrylates as high as $4,000/tonne in May.

In Europe, Dow is currently in the midst of a two-month maintenance shutdown at its Boehlen, Germany, plant, and Hexion was in the process of restarting its facilities last week after a scheduled turnaround.

The global production outages have resulted in an almost non-existent spot market, with price ideas ranging from €1,900/tonne to €3,000/tonne FD for butyl acrylate. Other European producers include BASF.

“We all live hand to mouth, and we all have to assess the situation on a daily basis,” one trader said.

($1 = €0.78)

For more on Arkema, Dow, Hexion and BASF visit ICIS company intelligence
For more on acrylic acid or acrylate esters visit ICIS chemical intelligence

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By: Libby George
+44 208 652 3214

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