Acrylonitrile markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, Europe and the US by our network of locally based reporters.
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Acrylonitrile: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2018
Asia’s acrylonitrile (ACN) supply is expected to tighten further in the second quarter of 2018, amid upcoming turnarounds in Taiwan, South Korea and within China as well. More than 1m tonnes/year of Asian production capacity is expected to shut for turnarounds during the quarter, including the 452,000 tonne/year Petrochina Jilin Petrochemical plant. Meanwhile, it remains unclear if a proposed new 130,000 tonne/year plant by China’s Shandong Haili Chemical Industry will successfully start up in Q2 2018. Earlier expectations were that Haili would commence operations in early 2018, but to date, it had not started up and there were no fresh updates on its status.
The demand outlook is murky for Q2, depending on performance in the major downstream application of acrylic fibre (AF). In Q1, many AF plants across Asia, particularly in China, cut operating rates due to poor margins and lacklustre downstream pricing. In China, now that domestic prices of ACN had softened significantly towards the end of Q1 2018, expectations are that offtake from the AF sector users should improve, although whether this would sustain would hinge on how domestic AF prices develop. Meanwhile, demand from other major downstream applications like acrylamide (AM) and acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) is expected to remain stable, but that from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) may be affected if ABS prices continue to soften under the pressure of slipping feedstock styrene prices.
April and May are expected to remain tight. Lukoil confirmed that it will be entering a period of maintenance for cleaning at its 150,000 tonne/year Saratovorgsintez site in Saratov, Russia. This will take place from 9 to 16 April. There is also three weeks' downtime planned at INEOS's Seal Sands plant in April.
Demand levels are expected to be maintained until the traditional summer lull in demand. It is possible that the months of limited availability may result in the traditionally quiet summer period being shortened. As limited volumes will be stretched by production breaks, demand will probably remain consistent at the start of the month. However, a cooling of downstream sentiment may ease pressure on the ACN market.
US acrylonitrile supplies are expected to improve in the second quarter 2018 as producers continue efforts to rebuild inventories amid strong demand in the global market. Softening demand in the China market amid lower-than-expected acrylic fibre demand, as well as delays to upcoming turnarounds in the Asia market, should also alleviate supply concerns in the short term.
US acrylonitrile demand is expected to remain constant in the second quarter 2018 amid strong demand in the majority of downstream sectors. Demand for ACN for adiponitrile in the nylon 6,6 chain, as well as demand in the acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene and acrylamide markets, is expected to remain strong, while demand for acrylic fibres is expected to continue to soften.
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Acrylonitrile (ACN) is a clear, colourless or pale yellow flammable liquid with a sweet, pungent, irritating odour. It is partially soluble in water, soluble in most organic solvents (including ethyl alcohol, acetone, benzene, carbon tetrachloride and ethyl acetate), very reactive and polymerises violently in the presence of alkalis or peroxides.
ACN is used mainly as a monomer or comonomer in the production of synthetic fibres, plastics and elastomers. The largest outlet is in the manufacture of acrylic fibres, which are used in clothing. Acrylic fibres also have uses in home furnishings and bedding.
An important outlet for ACN is the acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)/styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) market.
The dominant route for the manufacture of ACN is the one-step propylene ammoxidation process, replacing the original acetylene-based technology. New technology based on propane ammoxidation is being developed by a number of ACN producers with claims of a 30% production cost advantage compared to the propylene route.