Updated to mid-August 2011
Glacial acrylic acid spot prices in the key China markets continued to slide from mid-May at $2,900–2,930/tonne CIF (cost, insurance & freight) CMP (China Main Port) to hit a bottom of $2,600–2,650/tonne CIF CMP on 22 June.
Competitively priced local cargoes in addition to tepid demand from the downstream super absorbent polymer sector were key factors contributing to the weaker values.
From early July, buying sentiment improved as end users came forward to replenish low inventories. In addition, they feared that prices could trend higher in the coming weeks in tandem with rising feedstock propylene and oxo-alcohol values.
Spot prices for drummed parcels closed at $2,650–2,700/tonne CIF CMP for the week ending 10 August.
Similarly, bearish sentiment was felt in the southeast Asian region. Spot prices for drummed cargoes slumped by $200–300/tonne from $2,750–2,900/tonne CIF SE Asia (southeast Asia) in mid-May to $2,450–2,700/tonne CIF SE Asia in mid-August.
After months of restricted supply owing to firm demand and limited production, European acrylic acid (AA) prices and availability began to stabilise in May. By June, contracts largely rolled over following continuous price increases since the end of 2010.
The €75/tonne drop in feedstock propylene for July galvanised buyers to push for a similar reduction that month, which was largely achieved. Some buyers looked for more of a reduction to recoup some of the lost margins from the first half of the year.
July AA contracts were eventually agreed at €2,120–2,270/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe), a reduction of €50–75/tonne FD NWE. The downward movement was tempered by a stronger Asian market, which limited the volume of imports into Europe.
Moving into August and the third quarter, many AA players are unsure of the general market direction. Some upstream confusion regarding the August propylene contract saw some buyers move quickly to secure material at a rollover, despite the ostensibly slower market during the summer period. Sellers are optimistic that September will be a strong month for sales.
US acrylic acid and acrylate esters’ freely negotiated contract prices saw a net gain of only 1 cent/lb ($22/tonne) in the three-month period leading up to mid-August 2011.
Prices climbed by 5 cents/lb in May, held flat for June and then declined by 4 cents/lb for July.
Acrylates spot and contract values were higher early in the period because of sharply higher upstream values and logistics issues stemming from flooding along the Mississippi River.
Feedstock chemical-grade propylene prices were assessed up by 9.5 cents/lb in May. But propylene tumbled by 15 cents for June and gave up another 4 cents/lb for July. This upstream weakness helped pushed July acrylic acid contract prices to a range of $1.46–1.51/lb.
Although the propylene market was stronger for August, buyers doubted it would be enough to push August acrylates prices up, given softer year-on-year acrylates demand and ample supply. One buyer said acrylates prices were beginning to drop by 5 cents/lb for August on these fundamentals.
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Acrylic acid and esters are a versatile series on monomers that provide the performance characteristics to many polymer formulations. Major markets for the esters include surface coatings, textiles, adhesives and plastics. Polyacrylic acid or copolymers find applications in superabsorbents, detergents, dispersants, flocculants and thickeners. Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) are used mainly in disposable nappies.
More about Acrylic Acid Uses and Outlook
Acrylic acid became commercially available when routes based on the reaction of acetylene with water and carbon monoxide, or an alcohol and carbon monoxide to give acrylic acid, were developed. Another early process was the reaction of ketene, obtained by the pyrolysis of acetone or acetic acid, with formaldehyde. All these processes are now obsolete.
More about Acrylic Acid Process Technologies
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