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 Q4 2015
In the US, MDI prices will be trending down for the fourth quarter of 2015, driven by lower-priced benzene and ample MDI supply. After the peak summer season, MDI demand from the construction sector will be slowing as the weather cools. Fourth-quarter TDI prices will also be coming down on long supply.
Asian TDI import prices may trend stable-to-soft in Q4 amid persistently poor downstream offtake. Prices are expected to stay suppressed for the rest of the year despite that several Chinese local plants have been shut end-July/early August for turnarounds. Meanwhile, Asian MDI prices may be near the bottom as producers’ margins are tightly squeezed. The impending maintenance shutdown at a major eastern China facility at the year-end may limit prices from slipping further.
While price discussions are in the early stages, European crude MDI and TDI October contract prices are both expected to show some decreases. Relatively strong demand for both products - and balanced markets - means the downward pressure exerted by significant feedstock price reductions is likely to be mitigated to some extent. Healthy requirements for MDI and TDI are anticipated to persist for the coming weeks.
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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.