Europe acetone prices continue to firm as supply tightens

10 February 2012 16:40  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--European acetone spot prices continue to firm as almost every European producer enters into a sold-out position, markets sources confirmed on Friday.

Last week, spot acetone prices moved up by €100/tonne ($133/tonne), largely as a result of the €90/tonne hike in the propylene contract price but also because the European spot market had become short of material, following cutbacks on phenol operating rates.

The range was then pegged at €790840/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe).

But this week almost every price recorded for “actual business done” was in the €900s/tonne.

Spanish petrochemical producer CEPSA Quimica had expected to see €1,000/tonne by the end of the month, but revised its view this week.

“We are over €1,000/tonne in... ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp). CEPSA expects to see €1,000/tonne... . Regrettably this is a mis-quote. We expect to see €1,100/tonne by the end of the month,” a company source said.

“There is no product!” the source added.

Indeed, reports of “no product” were commonplace among European producers this week, with almost every supplier saying they had no material for the spot market.

In relation to its availability, a second producer based in southern Europe said: “To my customers I have to say, no more room. I have too many trucks to be loaded so I have stopped sales.”

Despite this, producers were still keen to quote spot prices ideas, most of which fell in a €1,0001,100/tonne FD NWE price bracket.

In the trade and distribution markets, sources confirmed that they have been unable to secure any volumes.

Many of them were unable to quote even a notional range because they simply were not able to move any material.

There were some, however, who had concluded spot business this week, most of which was concluded in the €900s/tonne.

And spot lots traded earlier in the week were quoted at around €880920/tonne. 

Sellers of acetone spoke of a high level of enquiries, but there was some scepticism in the market as to whether these were the same buyers looking for volume, which on the surface looked to magnify the actual level of “real demand”.

Nonetheless, offtake from the methyl methacrylate (MMA) and bisphenol A (BPA) markets remains strong.

Regarding the buying frenzy for spot acetone, a trader said: “Every Tom, Dick and Harry is trying to buy cheap acetone. But this has gone.”

Although the distributor was bullish in his outlook, he said he had yet to sell above €850/tonne, although he had seen numbers at €855/tonne on a FCA (free carrier) basis out of Antwerp.

A proportion of the gains seen this week were attributed to Swiss-headquartered petrochemical producer INEOS cutting production at the INEOS Phenol facility in Gladbeck, Germany, because of weather-related problems with its cumene supply.

News of the problem comes at a precarious time for the market since INEOS Phenol and CEPSA Quimica plants producing acetone are due to undergo scheduled maintenance.

($1 = €0.76)

For more on acetone visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Julia Meehan
+44 20 8652 3214

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