The global Isocyanates markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. All the reports have price assessments on methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) for spot business and, where applicable, contract or domestic activity.
The up-to-date market news and analysis is collated by our locally based reporters and includes regional activity, upstream and downstream movements, production schedules, graphs and, in some instances, historical data. This provides you with a valuable tool to base your commercial judgements on.
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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 Q2 2016
US toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) prices are facing upward pressure after producers separately announced price increases of 5 cents/lb or 8 cents/lb, depending on the producer, targeted for 1 April implementation. It is too early to project the outcome of the hike proposals amid ongoing discussions. Buyers are resisting the initiatives and are not expecting full implementation of the announced increases. Consumers said that feedstock costs do not justify the proposed TDI price hikes, even if upstream crude oil values have firmed from below $30/bbl to around $40/bbl. TDI demand in the US was gauged as healthy though unspectacular, and is expected to improve during the summer.
US methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) markets are facing upward pressure on producers’ price increase announcements. MDI buyers said that producers have proposed 5 cents/lb or 8 cents/lb hikes, depending on the producers, for 1 April. Sources said that buyers intended to resist the proposed increases, as the initiatives were not supported by feedstock costs or by supply/demand fundamentals. MDI demand from rigid foam applications for the construction industry was gauged as in line with seasonality during the off-peak winter months and far from stellar. Demand was met by sufficient supply even during a turnaround in the US at a major MDI producer’s plant. MDI business is projected to improve as construction activity picks up with warming weather.
European TDI prices faced upward pressure during the last few weeks of Q1 as a result of both confirmed and unconfirmed issues at several producers’ plants tightening the market. This lack of availability is expected to persist in early Q2, with producers targeting April TDI increases of up to €100/tonne. Crude MDI prices were stable to softer in March, leaving producers concerned about compressed margins. Q2 is expected to see them try to raise prices in order to claw back some of the lost margins, with April MDI hikes of up to €50/tonne targeted.
Asian MDI and TDI import prices are likely to be stable to firm in Q2 amid the rebound in their respective feedstock benzene and toluene prices since the beginning of the year. A series of scheduled plant turnarounds in northeast Asia, in addition to the permanent closure of a Japanese producer’s TDI unit in early April, is expected to provide further support to prices.
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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.