FocusAsia MA prices likely to hit 44-month peak on high butane

01 March 2012 09:05  [Source: ICIS news]

By Quintella Koh

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian maleic anhydride (MA) is expected to touch a new 44-month high this week, with trades said to have taken place above $1,720-1,740/tonne (€1,290-1,305/tonne) on high feedstock butane prices, according to producers and traders on Thursday.

As compared to prices on 24 February, the MA trades represent a spot price increase of $70-100/tonne CFR (cost and freight) SE Asia (southeast Asia), or up 4.2-5.7%, ICIS data shows.

On 24 February, the CFR SE Asia MA quote was at $1,620-1,670/tonne.

According to ICIS, the last time MA prices were above $1,720/tonne was on 29 August 2008. The CFR SE Asia quote on that date was $1,750/tonne.

Several producers said MA prices skyrocketed this week because of historic-high butane feedstock prices.

MA producers were informed on the evening of 29 February that the butane contract price (CP) for March will be at $1,180/tonne FOB Ras Tanura, up $140/tonne from the butane price CP in February.

“This is a historic high for butane. We have never paid such a high price for butane. The March butane CP really comes as a shock to us,” said a Japanese producer.

Producers and traders reacted swiftly to the butane CP price announcement.

Offers for March delivery MA were immediately hiked up to $1,720-1,740/tonne CFR SE Asia, and these parcels were snapped up this morning by buyers in southeast Asia, regional producers said.

“MA buyers are also quick to react after hearing about the March butane CP settlement,” said a trader.

“We can definitely expect to see further MA price increases in the coming weeks. From the producers viewpoint, selling MA cargoes below $1,720/tonne is unworkable,” said a Taiwanese producer.

A buyer said: “I have already placed orders for cargoes at above $1,700/tonne CFR SE Asia as it is clear that prices will increase in the coming weeks, so I have made spot commitments early this week."

Meanwhile, several upcoming MA turnarounds in Asia are expected to substantially tighten regional supply, said producers and traders.

In Taiwan, Tasco Chemical is planning to shut its 25,000 tonne/year plant at Lin Yuan, Kaohsiung, in the middle of March for two weeks, a company source said on Thursday.

The company had originally planned to shut its MA plant for one month, but it decided this month that shutting down the plant for two weeks is sufficient for it to complete its maintenance works, the source said.

As a result of its planned shutdown, Tasco has ceased offering spot MA cargoes this week, added the source.

In Japan, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation (MCHC) is planning to shut its 32,000 tonne/year maleic anhydride (MA) plant at Mizushima in Okayama prefecture in the middle of June for a 45-day maintenance, a company source said.

The company had originally planned to shut its MA plant for 30 days, but decided to extend its shutdown period by a further 15 days to conduct additional checks on its machinery, the source added.

MCHC has limited its MA spot availabilities due to its upcoming turnaround, the source said.

Fellow Japanese MA producer, Nippon Shokubai is planning to shut its 35,000 tonne/year maleic anhydride (MA) plant in Himeji this month from 26 March to 18 April for maintenance, a company source said.

As a result of its shutdown, Nippon Shokubai is also reducing its spot allocations, the source added.

 

($1 = €0.75)


By: Quintella Koh
+65 6780 4372



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