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 Q3 2018
More material should enter the European vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) market during the course of Q3, as production issues globally begin to ease. Although a question mark remains over the short-term export potential from the US, more sluggish demand in Asia, coupled with relatively attractive prices in Europe, make Europe a possibly attractive option for producers there.
A large European consumer that is believed to have undergone a turnaround recently should be operating normally if it has not started up already. This should entail higher demand. At the same time, Q3 will see an expected slowdown as employees go on holiday.
Higher VAM prices, both on contracts and for exports, should continue for the duration of Dow Chemical’s force majeure on VAM because of compromised supply of feedstock acetic acid. Dow estimated in mid-May that its force majeure would last for at least two months, which would put the end in mid-July.
US propylene demand could fall in the third quarter as an increase in propylene prices late in the second quarter is encouraging derivative buyers to turn to imports and inventories. However, the price spike is not as severe as in the first quarter so the fall-off in demand may not be as severe. Downstream polypropylene (PP) operating rates fell by about 10% in the first quarter in response to an early year propylene price spike.
Supply may not experience significant increases in the third quarter, amid lingering shortages in US and Europe markets. A couple of plants in Japan and Taiwan are down for turnarounds early in Q3. There was concern that production in China may be affected by environmental protection measures on utility supply.
Demand from the downstream ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) sector may weaken as EVA makers reduce output of photovoltaic (PV) grade EVA with 28% vinyl acetate content. The Chinese government’s move to strictly control PV installations and reduce feed-in tariff rates for distributed PV systems hurt demand for PV grade EVA.
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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.