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 Q1 2018
There are no major turnarounds planned in the near future that would be likely to compromise aggregate supply to the European VAM market. Dairen will have a shutdown in Taiwan but their Singapore plant supplies the European theatre. However, if demand surges in Asia, regular suppliers to Europe may find incremental sales to customers there more profitable, possibly affecting spot availability.
The first quarter is the main winter period and January and February therefore usually see the lowest consumption of products used in the painting and coatings sector. However, the suspension of the 5.5% EU import duty from 1 January may stimulate demand if converters feel that they can enjoy some of the reduction in total cost.
The US vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) market faces a pair of supply issues in the first quarter of 2018, with one a lingering force majeure and the other a busy turnaround season. Celanese remains on force majeure with VAM because of logistics problems around its 300,000 tonne/year plant in Bay City, Texas, that developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Texas coast in late August. All five US VAM plants are in the Houston area, and those units will see a busy turnaround season in the first half this year. LyondellBasell chief executive Bob Patel said the spring turnaround season looks to be heavier than average.
The VAM price outlook for Q1 appears to be mixed. Recent price history shows January and February trending flat-up over the past five years, though only one producer (Celanese) issued a price increase for the first month of the year. But if feedstock acetic acid prices keep rising through February as is expected, VAM should follow.
Updated to Q4 2017
Suppliers were upbeat on the price direction on account of curtailed supply from China due to the outage of a major plant since late December, as well as maintenance shutdowns at VAM plants in Taiwan and Japan during the quarter. Sinopec Sichuan Vinylon has yet to restart its 500,000 tonne/year plant in Chongqing, Sichuan, as previously estimated at the end of December 2017, after an outage on around 21 December due to feedstock natural gas shortage and other mechanical issues. The exact restart date remains uncertain pending a clearer indication of the feedstock supply.
Demand in south Asia and southeast Asia should remain constant-to-marginally firmer due to improved operating rates at a downstream acrylic fibre plant after recovering from production issues in November and December. Northeast Asia, namely South Korea, may see continued strong demand as downstream ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) producers plan to focus on the output of EVA grades with higher VA content in 2018.
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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.