China amines seen firming on tight supply, plant shutdowns

22 August 2013 04:36 Source:ICIS News

By Felicia Loo

Ethanolamines have applications in agrochemicals, surfactants, personal care and construction.SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Spot prices of monoethanolamines (MEA), diethanolamines (DEA) and triethanolamines (TEA) in China may continue rising in response to tightening supply amid plant maintenance in the country and overseas, market participants said on Thursday.

Recent gains were triggered by rising costs of feedstock ethylene oxide (EO), they said.

On 21 August, MEA prices in China in drummed packaging were assessed at yuan (CNY) 11,000-12,000/tonne ($1,797-1,961/tonne) EXWH (ex-warehouse), up by CNY200-800/tonne week on week, while DEA prices rose to CNY11,300-12,300/tonne EXWH, CNY300-800/tonne higher over the same period, according to ICIS.

Meanwhile, TEA prices increased by CNY200-700/tonne to CNY12,200-13,200/tonne EXWH, the data showed.

The difficulties in securing spot material because of plant turnarounds overshadowed the stable-to-soft demand, market participants said.

Typically, China faces a demand lull in the amines segment during summer.

“Supplies are very tight. Two major plants are down in China and we’re not getting much offers for imported material,” said one market participant in east China.

Ethanolamines has applications in agrochemicals, surfactants, personal care and construction. MEA is produced by reacting ethylene oxide (EO) with ammonia. The chemical reaction also produces DEA and TEA.

Besides tighter cargo availability for both imported material as well as locally produced supply, the spike in feedstock EO prices, which were in turn supported by a strengthening monoethylene glycol (MEG) market, helped underpin the current amines price strength, market participants said.

Asia’s MEG spot prices continued their uptrend in the week ended 16 August, as a sales rally in downstream polyester industry drove up traders’ buying interest and discussion prices. MEG prices rose by $90-100/tonne (€68-75/tonne) to $1,200-1,230/tonne CFR Asia, according to ICIS.

On 21 August, EO prices in eastern China were assessed at CNY10,200/tonne EXWH, up by CNY200/tonne week on week.

The market is bracing up for further price spike amid current shutdowns and an impending turnaround at a major regional facility in southeast Asia.

Dutch producer Akzo Nobel’s 80,000 tonne/year amines complex at Ningbo in China’s Zhejiang province is undergoing a month-long regular turnaround. The facility was taken off line on 9 August.

BASF-YPC, on the other hand, shut its 76,000 tonne/year ethanolamines plant in Nanjing for regular maintenance on 10 August, industry sources said. The plant is expected to be down for two to three weeks.

In meantime, Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) will be taking its 75,000 tonnes/year ethanolamines unit in Kerteh, Terengganu, off line on 1 September for maintenance. The turnaround is expected to last until end-October. The plant restarted recently following the lifting of a force majeure in end-July.

Owing to strong domestic demand, South Korea’s KPX Green Chemical is keeping its ethanolamines supply for the local market. The company plans to raise the run rates at its 25,000 tonne/year ethanolamines unit in Daesan to 90% capacity from the current 85% rate, following a recent turnaround.

($1 = €0.75 / $1 = CNY6.12)

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

By Felicia Loo