Isocyanates Prices, markets & analysis
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Isocyanate overview Transcript
Toluene diisocyanate or TDI and methylene di-p-phenylene isocyate or MDI are the most common types of aromatic isocyanates. They are used mainly in the production of flexible and rigid polyurethane or PU foams.
Minor applications include coatings and adhesives. Most TDI output goes into the furniture and automotive sectors, and most MDI into construction. So demand for isocyanates is closely linked with economic performances.
Other factors which impact the price of isocyanates are the supply and feedstock values such as benzene and toluene which are in turn heavily dependent on crude futures pricing. China is the main user of TDI and MDI in Asia.
It has the largest manufacturing base due to a continuous increase in local demand and is the leading exporter for finished goods. Both TDI and MDI are greatly dependent on spot trades which are primarily driven by traders and producers.
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Isocyanates: Market overview
Updated to Q3 2015
The outlook for the European crude methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) market in the third quarter of 2015 is unclear, with some producers speaking of healthy demand from the construction sector, while other participants expecting the forthcoming summer holiday season to slow business. While higher costs for feedstock benzene exert upward pressure on July contract prices, some sources expect rollovers on the back of the summer slowdown.
In the US, MDI price direction for the third quarter of 2015 points down because of low upstream benzene prices, which in June 2015 were around $3.00/gal, well below July 2015 prices. The price direction for third-quarter US toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) is not as clear, because of ample TDI supply. However, upstream toluene prices have been rising since January, but were still substantially below prices in July 2014.
Asian TDI import prices may be near a bottom as producers’ margins are tightly squeezed but any attempted price hikes by sellers are likely to be kept in check as the restart of several northeast Asian facilities from their scheduled turnarounds in late Q2 is expected to worsen the long supply situation. Asian MDI prices, on the other hand, may have further room to fall amid weak demand and long supply.
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MDI: Pure methyl diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) occurs as white to pale yellow crystals or flakes with a slightly musty odour. It is soluble in acetone, benzene, kerosene and nitrobenzene. It reacts readily with water to form insoluble polyureas and may polymerise under the influence of temperatures above 204oC.
MDI is made available both in pure form and as a mixture of MDI, the dimer and trimer. Mixed MDIs is referred to as polymeric isocyanates or PMDI.
MDI is used mainly in polyurethane (PU) foams. Rigid foams are mostly used in construction, refrigeration, packaging and insulation. Flexible foams are used in furniture, bedding and transportation. MDI is also used to make binders, elastomers, adhesives, sealants and coatings.
TDI: The main outlet for toluene diisocyanate (TDI) is in the manufacture of polyurethane (PU) flexible foams used in upholstery, mattresses and automotive seats. This is achieved by reacting the TDI with a polyol to produce the foam. Smaller uses for TDI include polyurethane elastomers and coatings.
TDI occurs as colourless to pale yellow liquid or crystals with a pungent odour. All isocyanates are hazardous and must be handled with care. Skin contact must be avoided, as redness, blistering and possible sensitisation can result.