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
Isocyanates demand in Europe and the US is expected to pick up seasonally during the second quarter, notably in the downstream construction industry based on improving weather conditions.
The latter is particularly the case in the US, following the end of the recent harsh winter, while the good activity not traditionally seen in Europe in the first quarter, amid mild winter conditions, is expected to continue.
Toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) offtake from the bedding and furniture sectors is also likely to pick up in the US in the second quarter, but is seasonally slowing in parts of Europe, with the exception of eastern Europe.
In Asia, there is some talk that supply could tighten due to a spate of plant turnarounds for methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) over the next few months, but others suggest that it may lead to a more balanced market amid demand uncertainty in the Chinese market.
The Chinese TDI market, however, is expected to remain in oversupply on the back of new domestic capacity in China, despite some plant maintenances taking place in Asia during the second quarter.
Updated to mid-April 2014.
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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.