Our ICIS vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) reports are published weekly in Asia, Europe and the US and provide the reader with up-to-date, independent pricing information compiled by our locally-based reporters. Spot assessments are reported in all regions, while contracts only apply to Europe and the US.
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Vinyl acetate monomer: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2018
While there will still be some maintenance shutdowns during the course of Q2, the global market will probably see fewer turnarounds than in the first few months of the year. This would suggest an easing in the current tightness. However, the annual EU import duty suspension is likely to come to an end before the end of the period, with the take up of the 350,000 tonne quota probably finishing in June or possibly earlier. The completion of this process could be accompanied by a deceleration in the pace of imports, which account for the lion's share of vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) volumes in Europe.
The paintings and coatings season will be on an up-swing in Q2 with orders of VAM expected to reach its peak around May to June, prior to its consumption in the downstream markets. Although some buyers have observed lacklustre activity to date, others acknowledge that business activity is healthy and comes against a positive economic background in Europe.
Higher prices are now the immediate issue for US vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) because of Celanese’s proposal to raise prices by 5 cents/lb ($110/tonne) on 1 April in the US and Canada. The producer also plans to raise prices by nearly 7 cents/lb or $150/tonne in Latin America, according to a company announcement.
Market sources in Latin America have exhibited differing views on supply in recent weeks. One view holds that the market is fairly balanced, with material available. The other view, which is not exactly the opposite, holds that the Latin American vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) market is undersupplied because VAM demand in the US is strong, leaving less for exports.
Supply from China will be curtailed in Q2 due to maintenance shutdowns scheduled at two plants with combined annual capacities of 750,000 tonnes. The availability of spot cargoes from northeast Asia will also tighten, as two plants in Japan will undergo shutdowns during the quarter. A Taiwan-based producer had no spot cargoes to offer until May as two of its plants, with combined annual capacities of 420,000 tonnes, were shut for overhauls in succession from late February to mid-April.
Demand in India is expected to pick up in April when companies emerge to replenish inventories in the new financial year. Some buyers in southeast Asia were eager to secure first-half April loading cargoes from China, on concerns of curtailed supply due to turnarounds at two plants in China in April and May.
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Vinyl Acetate Monomer Methodology
About Vinyl acetate monomer
Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) is a colourless, volatile, flammable mobile liquid, with characteristic sweet etheral odour. Vinyl acetate is a dangerous fire and explosion hazard because it will polymerise violently when exposed to heat.
It is a key intermediate used in the making of a number of polymers and resins for adhesives, coatings, paints, films, textiles and other end-products.
The largest derivative is polyvinyl acetate (PVA) which is mainly used in adhesives as it has good adhesion properties to a number of substrates including paper, wood, plastic films and metals. Other uses for PVA include paper coatings, paints and industrial coatings.
The second largest consumer of VAM is polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) which is manufactured from PVA.
VAM is consumed in the manufacture of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE).
A fast growing use of VAM is the manufacture of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) which is used as a barrier resin in food packaging, plastic bottles and gasoline tanks, and in engineering polymers.
Other VAM derivatives include vinyl chloride-vinyl acetate copolymers which have major applications in coatings, paints and adhesives.
VAM is usually produced by the catalysed, vapour phase reaction of acetic acid with ethylene and oxygen in a fixed bed tubular reactor using a supported noble metal catalyst. The VAM is recovered by condensation and scrubbing and purified by distillation.