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Our editor gives their expert view of fatty alcohols
Fatty Alcohols Overview Transcript
The fatty alcohols are part of a group of chemicals called oleochemicals. The alcohols contain an alcohol unit as well as a glyceride unit and the functionality of those units allows the alcohols to be used in end-uses for industrial and home cleansers, detergents, surfactants.
It also enables the C8-11s to go into various construction uses and the C16-18s to go into personal care and cosmetics.
The market is driven highly by the price of veg oils in Asia, the US imports about 90% of our alcohols, so the US market is very watchful of the Asian veg oil prices.
It’s trade driven and the US, being a huge consuming market, whereas the other markets might have a little more spot selling going on
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Updated to mid-February 2013
The US is a net importer of fatty alcohols, with three domestic producers and at least five active importers.
Procter & Gamble, BASF, Sasol and Shell produce fatty alcohols in the US.
Procter & Gamble and BASF make the alcohols from natural oils.
Shell and Sasol produce alcohols via different chemical routes toward synthetic output. Shell uses ethylene as feedstock; Sasol uses natural gas in a gas-to-liquids technology.
The market is dominated by large industrial and household detergent surfactant producers, cosmetic and personal care suppliers and a few industrial building material makers.
C12-16 fatty alcohols serve as surfactant and detergent feedstocks; C16-18 fatty alcohols are used in cosmetic and personal care applications.
Pricing is structured in quarterly contracts, with erratic spot market activity developing mainly for the detergent-range alcohols when supply lengthens.
Price volatility in Asian feedstock palm and coconut oil markets can lead to subsequent volatility in the US market.
New production capacity in Asia is fostering a build-up of alcohol inventories, although it remains unclear if all planned production increases will take place.
Lower natural gas prices in the US continue to offer ethylene and gas-to-liquids (GTL) producers some advantage for their margins.
Global vegetable oil price volatility can promote fluctuating natural alcohol supply availability, driving prices up or down depending upon the direction of palm oil prices.
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ICIS price assessments are based on information gathered from a wide cross-section of the market, comprising consumers, producers, traders and distributors from more than 250 reporters world-wide. Confirmed deals, verified by both buyer and seller, provide the foundation of our price assessments.
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