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 Q4 2017
Taiwan's TPCC shut its 40,000 tonne/year plant at Kaohsiung for maintenance on 25 July 2017. The plant was originally scheduled to restart on 31 July 2017. However, it only restarted in the week of 11 September 2017. According to a company source, the plant is still undergoing some quality checks and is not ready to offer any cargoes. Elsewhere, South Korea's Yongsan Chemical plans to shut one MA line at its Ulsan plant on from 21 October to 15 November. The plant has two lines. One produces 18,000 tonne/year while the other produces 20,000 tonne/year. Yongsan has not confirmed which line it will shut.
The fourth quarter will see MA prices firming as producers and traders factor recent gains in feedstock butane prices in their offers. Northeast Asian producers are maintaining minimum offers at $1,300/tonne CFR (cost and freight) SE (southeast) Asia. Even higher offers were heard at $1,500/tonne CFR SE Asia. Buyers said they will continue to buy on a need-to basis as downstream unsaturated polyester resins continues to see weak demand.
There were no production issues heard at the start of Q4. All European sites were said to be running to plan, with no known scheduled outages heard in the short term. However, there was less spot material evident as Asian imports have been reduced due to tightness in that region and rising prices.
Demand is expected to remain fairly robust during October and November, though as is traditionally seen, some lower off-take is expected to year end. Some consumers will go into panned outages and many look to end the year with minimal stock level.
Supply is expected to be slightly tighter in the fourth quarter as one plant undergoes maintenance at one of its four reactors. Inventory levels and supply are expected to have little to no issue fulfilling demand for the quarter.
Demand levels in the fourth quarter are expected to hold steady year on year, experiencing some seasonal declines. Pent-up demand creation was minimal during Hurricane Harvey, and exports are expected to be limited as overseas production levels are at normal volumes.
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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.