US truck acetone producers see price hike challenges

10 September 2012 22:47  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US producers and distributors said on Monday they do not expect any price increase nominations for September truck acetone, but will attempt to enforce nominations from August.

“The August increase was poorly implemented,” a distributor said. “Pricing will be more strictly enforced in September.”

US producers nominated a 5 cent/lb ($110/tonne, €86/tonne) increase in late July, then tacked on another 5 cent/lb increase in mid-August.

“The first 5 cents stuck quickly,” another distributor said. “The second didn’t have any legs at all.”

With efforts to implement August increases mixed at best, US August truck acetone prices were assessed by ICIS at 60-70 cents/lb DEL trucks (delivered via trucks), up by 1-6 cents/lb from July levels.

Sources said that efforts to implement the August initiatives will likely tighten the range to around 62-68 cents/lb, but discussions continue.

“Everyone should be up by 10 cents from where they were in July,” a producer said. “There’s no room for rollbacks because supply remains tight.”

Sources said much of the supply tightness seen in the summer has eased somewhat, although with at least two major acetone producers heard to be down for maintenance in September, the improved supply could be short-lived.

Much of the supply tightness has stemmed from low operating rates, which are being driven by weakness in the co-product phenol market, especially for export sales.

There is some optimism in that market, however, as feedstock benzene has fallen from record highs, which could make US phenol more attractive to Asian buyers.

This would then allow phenol-acetone producers to increase their operating rates and would ease supply tensions in the truck acetone market.

Several sources expressed caution regarding that situation, saying that even if US phenol became attractively priced to Asian buyers, demand might still be too weak for orders to be placed.

Major US acetone producers include Dow Chemical, Georgia Gulf, Haverhill Chemical, Honeywell, INEOS Phenol and Shell Chemical.

($1 = €0.78)

By: John Dietrich

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