The global Isocyanates markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. All the reports have price assessments on methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) for spot business and, where applicable, contract or domestic activity.
The up-to-date market news and analysis is collated by our locally based reporters and includes regional activity, upstream and downstream movements, production schedules, graphs and, in some instances, historical data. This provides you with a valuable tool to base your commercial judgements on.
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Isocyanates: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2018
Supply of PMDI in Q2 is expected to be largely stable as additional supply from the start up of Huntsman Polyurethanes Shanghai’s (HPS) new MDI plant in Shanghai in February will likely be offset by impending plant turnarounds such as that of Japan’s Tosoh Corp’s two of its three Nanyo plants from end-April to mid-June. Meanwhile, the tight supply condition of MMDI is expected to be alleviated gradually.
Demand for PMDI is expected to increase with the approach of the traditional peak demand season for the end-user construction sector in Q2. Demand for MMDI will likely pick up along with an expected lengthening of supply as buyers will likely ramp up their plant production.
Supply is expected to increase further as most major producers are expected to have ramped up production after maintenance shutdowns. Increased supply is also expected from Middle East producers and with expected capacity expansion at some Asian producers' plants.
Demand is expected to remain stable, with market players expected to take their cue from prices in China. Buyers are expected to continue buying in moderate volume through the quarter but activity may also slow due to Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which occurs during the quarter.
MDI supply is expected to improve in Q2 as Asian producers are likely to raise their export allocations to North America while BASF's force majuere is likely to be lifted early in the quarter.
Demand for US MDI is expected to remain firm into the second quarter as many of the major consumption sectors for downstream polyurethane systems such as the construction industry will be entering its traditional high season.
Updated to Q3 2018
Europe crude methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) supply will be interrupted by a turnaround at US producer Dow Chemical’s 190,000 tonne/year Stade plant in April. The scheduled maintenance will last more than a month and will reduce the availability of product. Nonetheless, sources said that the market is well supplied enough that no large effect is anticipated on business. The same was said following news of reduced rates at US seller Huntsman’s 470,000 tonne/year Rozenburg plant in March. However, some sources stated an effect from this difficulty could take place in May as opposed to April.
Europe crude MDI demand grows in warmer weather as end-use construction activity typically receives a boost in higher temperatures. However, consumption was quiet in quarter one due to atypically cold weather and this is expected to continue into April.
Updated to Q2 2018
Supply is expected to decrease in Q2 due to upcoming plant turnarounds in Japan and South Korea, including Mitsui Chemicals & SKC Polyurethanes Inc’s (MCNS) Omuta unit from May to June and Hanwha Chemical’s Yeosu unit in April. Domestic supply in China may also decline slightly as a major eastern China-based plant is shut in earlier April for a turnaround for two weeks, market sources said.
Demand is expected to remain largely stable amid weak market sentiment. This is despite that April to May is the traditional peak demand season for TDI. Buyers will likely be lukewarm in their restocking activities if sellers continue to be staunch on their offers.
Europe toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) tightness is not expected to diminish until German seller BASF’s 300,000 tonne/year Ludwigshafen facility comes back on line. It was originally shut down in January and is not set to return until the second quarter. Therefore, some market participants expect low availability levels until the third quarter at the earliest.
Consumption levels will not factor into Europe TDI price negotiations until BASF’s Ludwigshafen plant is brought on line. Prior to its shutdown in January, market participants said contract discussions revolved around securing volumes primarily. Although, sellers admitted that continued upward pressure on pricing could lead to customers losing business.
Many key producers typically carry out scheduled plant maintenances during Q2 and output usually declines during this period. The maintenance shutdowns, however, were planned well in advance and inventories will have been sufficiently built up.
Demand is expected to remain steady and prices firm. Middle East buyers are expected to wait for further price reductions before raising order volumes. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins in mid-May, and this could see a further reduction in demand.
TDI supply is expected to remain tight in the second quarter. BASF's Ludwigshafen, Germany, plant is expected to restart sometime in the quarter, but market sources are not expecting any real supply relief before Q3.
TDI demand is expected to remain healthy heading into the second quarter as some of the major consumption sectors for the downstream polyurethane systems industry will be entering their traditional high seasons.
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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.