The Maleic Anhydride markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, Europe and the US. Our locally based reporters gather benchmark pricing assessments for both liquid and flake/molten material. Contracts are agreed in all three regions, while spot price updates are for Asia and Europe only.
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Maleic anhydride: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2018
Some producers in Asia will continue focusing on catering to domestic demand in their respective markets during the quarter. As a result, they are not keen to export cargoes into southeast Asia. Additionally, a few producers will continue to divert their cargoes to Europe, US and Middle East - where netbacks are better compared with Asia.
Demand from downstream unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) is expected to remain stable during the quarter. Some buyers said they had stockpiled sufficient inventories in anticipation of upward pressure arising from tight supply of MA. As a result, they may remain on the sidelines during the quarter.
Although MA supply was not considered as tight as at the start of Q1, there are still some restrictions on the spot market and those looking for sizeable volumes could have some issues locating the required quantity. There is one planned shutdown due in Q3, but no planned outages are heard for Q2.
Demand should reach its peak in the second quarter as is traditionally seen. This should help support the market through the period. The traditional strengthening in buying patterns in March however, was not as apparent as in previous years according to some.
Supply is set to tighten with the onset of turnaround activity. One producer is expected to be operating at reduced rates while one of the reactors is changed. Two other producers are expected to have separate outages in the April/May period for four to six weeks.
Demand is set to increase with the peak season, when downstream unsaturated polyester resin (UPR) demand generally increases with construction activity. Post-Hurricane Harvey rebuilding will likely provide a boost to demand.
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Maleic Anhydride Methodology
About Maleic anhydride
Maleic anhydride (MA) occurs as colourless or white crystalline flakes with strong acrid (pungent) odour. It is soluble in acetone, ether, petroleum fractions and reacts with water, evolving heat and forming MA. It also dimerises to 1,2,3,4 -cyclobutane tetracarboxylic acid dianhydride in the presence of UV light.
MA is mostly used to make unsaturated polyester resins (UPRs). UPRs are used in a wide range of applications including bathroom fixtures and automobiles.
The second-largest outlet for MA is 1,4 butanediol (BDO) and derivatives tetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL).
MA is available as liquid (molten) or solid (flake): the liquid form dominates and accounts for 90-95% of the market, which is not easily transportable.
MA is produced commercially by the oxidation of benzene or butane. The butane-based process is considered to have superior economics and is the preferred route by most producers. However, a small amount is produced by the benzene route.