European chemical profile: acrylic acid

11 June 2010 19:33  [Source: ICB]

Acrylic acid's major derivative is acrylic esters. Crude (unrefined) acrylic acid is used captively and almost exclusively to make acrylates and other derivatives.

Glacial (distilled) acrylic acid is used in superabsorbent polymers (SAP), which are mostly used in disposable diapers. Smaller volumes are consumed in polyacrylates.

Demand peaked in 2007 in Europe, with 2008 and 2009 being a difficult time as the financial crisis spread. Demand into esters fell in line with the housing crisis, as the paint and coatings sectors contracted significantly. Demand from SAP continued to be quite stable, although suffered from margin erosion and increased brand competition in 2009.

Capacity has remained relatively stable in Western markets. However, significant ownership changes have occurred, with US producer Dow Chemical acquiring Rohm and Haas in 2009 and France's Arkema buying Dow's Clear Lake, Texas, assets in the US earlier this year. Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical ended its joint venture (JV) with South Africa-based Sasol in South Africa in 2007.

Demand in Europe is recovering as the second quarter has brought a seasonal improvement to the paints and coatings market. But supplies are very tight as cutbacks last year, recent force majeure declarations, and planned and unplanned outages have restricted availability globally. Demand fell in Europe in 2008 to 874,000 tonnes from 907,000 tonnes in 2007, but another, much sharper, fall occurred in 2009. Production was stable in 2008 versus 2007 around 850,000 tonnes, but is estimated to have dropped in line with demand in 2009.

Quarterly contracts were largely abandoned in late 2008 because of extreme volatility in feedstock markets and monthly contracts have become dominant.

Prices have risen very sharply in 2010 as supply tightened globally. May contracts are in the range €1,690-1,850/tonne. Spot prices are above €2,000/tonne but deals are scarce. Europe needs imports but the euro's recent and rapid depreciation has made imported material expensive and unworkable.

Most plants are based on the gas-phase catalytic oxidation of propylene via acrolein. Rohm & Haas (now Dow) was developing a route based on propane. Latest development work is focused on bio-based acrylics.

The global market is set to continue to grow in excess of 3%/year, pulled by Asia, China, and India in particular. The Middle East and Africa are also showing firm growth rates.

An explosion of new capacity was noted in China in 2007/08. More was added last year by Shanghai Huayi. More will be added this year with a new focus on SAP production.

New projects appear to be concentrated in the Middle East. Dow and Saudi Arabia's TASNEE plan an acrylic acid/esters complex for 2012 in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Also in Al-Jubail, Germany's Evonik Industries plans an 80,000 tonne/year SAP plant, to start up in 2013, and Saudi's Dammam 7 Petrochemical and Shanghai Huayi plan a 200,000 tonne/year JV acrylic acid/esters complex there.

Japan's Nippon Shokubai will expand this year. Taiwan's Formosa Plastics has postponed project activity until 2012. Projects in India have been shelved.

Company Location Capacity
Akrilat Dzerzhinsk, Russia 25
American Acryl* Bayport, Texas, US 120
Arkema Carling, France 275
Clear Lake, Texas, US 320
BASF Antwerp, Belgium 320
Freeport, Texas, US 230
Ludwigshafen, Germany 270
BASF Petronas Kuantan, Malaysia 160
BASF-YPC Nanjing, China 160
Beijing Eastern ­Petrochemical Beijing, China 80
Celanese Cangrejera, Mexico 40
Dow Chemical Bohlen, Germany 80
Deer Park, Texas, US 410
Taft, Louisiana, US 110
Formosa Plastics Kaohsiung, Taiway 60
Mailiao, Taiwan 100
Ningbo, China 160
Hexion Sokolov, Czech Republic 55
Idemitsu ­Petrochemical Aichi, Japan 50
Jiangsu Jurong Chemical Yancheng, China 205
Jilin Petrochemical Jilin, China 35
LG Chem Naju, South Korea 65
Yeochun, South Korea 128
Mitsubishi ­Chemical Yokkaichi, Japan 110
Nippon Shokubai Himeji, Japan** 360
Oita Chemical Oita, Japan 60
Sasol Acrylates Sasolburg, South Africa 80
Shanghai Huayi Shanghai, China 200
Singapore Acrylics Pulau Sakra, Singapore 75
StoHaas Monomer Deer Park, Texas, US 165
Marl, Germany 265
TriPolyta Acrylindo Cilegon, Indonesia 60
Others China Various, China 280
* Arkema/NA Industries 50:50 JV
**60,000 tonnes/year onstream July 2010
Source: Tecnon OrbiChem

Information from Tecnon OrbiChem

Profile last published May 1, 2006

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By: Elaine Burridge
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