US MA June contracts may fall on cheaper n-butane

31 May 2012 23:07  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A sharp drop in the price of pimary feedstock normal butane (n-butane) may lead to a price reduction for US June maleic anhydride (MA) contracts, sources said on Thursday.

In early May, a series of 3-cent/lb price initiatives announced by all major producers, initially proposed for April, were successfully implemented. Contract prices are assessed at 94.2-100.2 cents/lb ($2,076-2,209/tonne, €1,682-1,789/tonne) FOB (free on board).

Since then, the price of n-butane, has dropped sharply, largely because of increased North American production of shale oil and natural gas.

Also, refiners are making the seasonal shift of using n-butane in winter gasoline blends to high-octane summer blends. On Tuesday, n-butane was trading at 157-158.5 cents/gal, a level not seen since the fall of 2010.

One producer said it appears that the price of n-butane has reached a new “plateau” that may stay in place until refiners begin using the chemical again for winter gasoline blends.

The producer said it has not yet received any inquires from buyers about a price reduction for MA, but added those discussions may begin in June. The producer said demand remains strong and is balanced with supply.

A large buyer, however, said one producer has already said it will lower its price for MA beginning 1 June. The amount of the reduction has not yet been agreed upon, the buyer said.

Meanwhile, major producer Huntsman is continuing a turnaround at its plant in Pensacola, Florida, having earlier completed a major turnaround at its plant in Geismar, Louisiana.

A source said the company is meeting its orders and demand remains strong, with no indication of the weakening in seasonal applications of MA. 

Other major producers of MA include Ashland, LANXESS and Flint Hills Resources. 

($1 = €0.81)

By: Ken Fountain

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