Acetone Prices, markets & analysis
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Acetone overview Transcript
The largest consumer of acetone is methyl methacrylate (MMA) and acrylic acid, nearly all MMA is polymerised to make homopolymers and copolymers.
The second largest use for acetone is the manufacture of bis-phenol A who’s growth is driven by the polycarbonate sector. Other significant outlets for acetone include solvents use.
Around 90% of acetone production is via the cumene route to make phenol, where 0.62 tonnes of acetone is produced with each tonne of phenol. As phenol demand is growing faster than acetone demand there is a global surplus of acetone in the market.
Acetone is a clear water-white volatile liquid, which is highly flammable. Europe has the capacity to produce approximately 2.5 million tonnes per year of acetone, while global production is set close to 7 million tonnes per year. Global growth is around 5% per year with Asia being the fastest growing region. In Europe, growth is set at around 0-2% per year.
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Acetone: Market overview
The European market remains divided on the potential for an acetone price recovery in Q1 2014. 2013 saw an unprecedented €310/tonne increase in spot prices between early January and mid-February, fuelled by expected supply shutdowns, seasonal restocking and recovering demand. Many market participants are expecting a rise this year. However others are less optimistic, pointing out that supply is currently plentiful and demand remains muted.
The US acetone market is expected to be balanced to tight in the first quarter.
Potential declines in the production of phenol – already averaging 65-70% due to poor domestic and foreign demand – would likely further diminish US acetone supply, tightening the domestic market but prompting higher acetone import levels.
Year-over-year demand growth for acetone has been estimated by some at about 3% over 2013 volumes, slightly higher than the most recent forecast US 2014 GDP growth of 2.8%.
Many market participants expect balanced-to-snug conditions to continue well into the first half of 2014, with tightness potentially becoming critical as downstream demand for methyl methacrylate (MMA) ostensibly heightens in the second quarter with the US spring paint and coatings season.
The prices of acetone into China, the Asian benchmark, are expected to remain well supported in the first quarter of 2014. Strong feedstock benzene and propylene costs, along with a busy plant turnaround season starting in February, are expected to offset lower derivative plant operating rates in China prior to and immediately following the Lunar New Year holiday starting 31 January.
Updated to mid-Jan 2014
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Acetone is a clear, water-white volatile liquid, slightly hygroscopic with a mild, mint-like fragrant odour. It is highly flammable, miscible in all proportions in water, ethyl alcohol, ether and will react explosively with strong oxidising agents.
The largest outlet for acetone is the manufacture of acetone cyanohydrin (ACH), which is a precursor to methyl methacrylate (MMA) and methacrylic acid.
An important derivative of MMA is polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
Applications for PMMA include windows, skylights, signs, lighting fixtures, automotive parts, medical devices and appliances. A growing sector is in electronic applications where it is used in flat screen televisions and liquid crystal displays.
Methacrylates are also used in latex surface coatings in applications such as architectural, automotive, wood furniture, lacquers and enamels.
Nearly all MMA is polymerised to make homopolymers and copolymers.
The second largest use for acetone is the manufacture of bisphenol-A (BPA), whose growth is driven by the polycarbonate sector.
Acetone is used to make a number of chemical derivatives such as methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), isophorone and diacetone alcohol/hexylene glycol.
Nearly all acetone production is via the cumene route where 0.62 tonnes of acetone is produced with each tonne of phenol. As a co-product to phenol, acetone availability is dependent on market conditions for phenol.