Image Description

Acetic acid

Informed decision-making in this fast-moving market 

Discover the factors influencing the acetic acid markets

Supply disruptions can change acetic acid markets in an instant, while developments in its varied derivative markets raise or squeeze consumption. When you’re making decisions in response to market activity, you expect to have the most up-to-date information on hand. Without accurate data, analytics and key insights, risk increases.

By gathering the comprehensive market intelligence and forecasts, we enable you to make profitable decisions every day in a vast and fast-moving international market. Our experts have established close contacts with producers, traders, end users and distributors across the globe to ensure our market intelligence puts you right at the heart of the trade flow.

Learn about our solutions for acetic acid

Pricing, news and analysis

Maximise profitability in uncertain markets with ICIS’ full range of solutions for acetic acid, including current and historic pricing, forecasts, supply and demand data, news and analysis.

Data solutions

Learn about Insight, Hindsight and Foresight, our dedicated commodity solutions accessible through our subscriber platform, ICIS ClarityTM or Data as a Service channels.

Acetic acid news

Sanitation framework, nascent LatAm lithium industry keeping Brazil’s chloralkali afloat – Abiclor

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s chlorine and caustic soda sectors have kept afloat in better health than the wider chemicals industry as sanitation plans and new lithium exploitations across Latin America keep demand high, according to the director general at the country’s trade group Abiclor. Abiclor's Milton Rego added, however, that the competitive challenges the chemicals industry faces in Brazil are common to both the parent industry and its chlorine subsector: high input costs, which make the whole industry suffer, infrastructure challenges and in the past two decades, fierce competition from China, not only in chemicals but for nearly all manufactured goods. However, given chlorine’s specific characteristics and its highly dangerous nature, shipments are more difficult, isolating the sector from the abundant, cheap imports other chemical products have had to face up to. This is well reflected in the operating rates in 2023: caustic soda and chlorine sectors averaged 70%, which is a low rate but higher than the overall chemicals industry’s at around 65%, according to figures from the Brazilian chemicals trade group Abiquim. WATER (FROM THE FAUCET) FOR THE PEOPLEBrazil will need a lot of chlorine in coming years. Despite all its natural wealth and the abundance of fresh water, around 33 million people in the 220-million strong country still do not have access to sanitized water yet. To tackle this, the previous Administration passed in 2020 the Reformulation of the Sanitation Legal Framework – or Novo Marco Legal do Saneamiento in Portuguese. Mostly through public-private partnerships, the plan envisages that by 2033 all Brazilians will be able to open the tap without fear of bacteria – and that means chlorine. Large Brazilian chemicals companies such as Unipar are tapping into the Marco Legal to expand their operations, in this case with a new chlorine plant in the northern state of Bahia. The largely de-industrialized and poorer Brazilian north is where still many cannot open the tap without fear of being infected. “The Marco de Saneamiento has some very clever points. On the one hand, it set the targets while improved the states’ ability to implement public-private projects, improving how they achieve the targets,” said Rego. “On the other, if the states do not achieve the targets, they could be penalized by not receiving the funds set up in the Marco for its development.” While the Marco de Saneamiento is set to place Brazil at the forefront in Latin America when it comes to sanitized water in people’s houses, some of the country’s perennial problems are still casting a shadow, said Rego. Namely, leaks in the water infrastructure as well as theft are still a cause for concern. Those two factors are also the ones that, despite all the sanitation work behind, make sanitized water still not suitable for drinking when it gets to Brazilian households. Even in the well-developed Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for instance, those who drink water from the faucet do so after filtering it. A far cry from the European systems, where water is safe to drink straight. “There have not been enough investments in keeping the water infrastructure systems up to date. The Marco de Saneamiento touches on the states’ responsibility in keeping the network functioning properly,” said Rego. “But no matter all the good intentions and plans to do so, when you get all those external factors [theft and leaks in the old networks, mostly] denting the quality of the water infrastructure network, it makes achieving the final goal harder.” CAUSTIC SODA: 3 MILLION DEMAND, 1.5 MILLION OUTPUTConsidering how chemicals producer have been besieged for much of the past two years by cheap imports coming into Brazil, the caustic soda situation may look enviable. Operating rates of 70% are not the panacea, Rego concurred, given the enormous spare capacity, but when compared to the wider industry, it is a healthier figure. In fact, Rego said the sector is already at pre-pandemic levels in terms of rates; a far cry from the wider industry, where operating rates continue to fall as global oversupplies for most chemicals keep denting domestic producers’ output. Brazil’s caustic soda output stands at around 1.5 million tonnes/year, but the country’s demand is at around 3 million tonnes/year. However, geography and industrial strengths play a part here. On one hand, most of the caustic soda imported into Brazil comes from the US via the Gulf Coast, and it is shipped to the northern states where aluminum production is strong. On the other hand, most of the 1.5 million tonnes produced domestically are produced in the south and serve the industrious southern states such as Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. “Our caustic soda deficit is mostly covered by the US: from the Gulf Coast to the northern Brazilian ports the freight costs are not too high, and it is perfectly placed to serve the high demand from the aluminum sector,” said Rego. “We have become too accustomed in Brazil to talk about our industrial decadence and how that could be reversed, but the aluminum sector, for instance, remains strong and not only cater for Brazilian demand: it is also a sector managing to export to overseas markets.” Rego said the Brazilian chloralkali sector can also look with optimism and the booming lithium sector in Latin America. As of now, Brazilian producers are exporting to Argentina and Bolivia caustic soda and derivative hydrochloric acid (HCl) for the extraction of lithium, a key component for electric batteries as the world seeks to electrify transport. “We are confident those exports are set to expand to other Latin American markets,” said Rego. THE COUNTRY OF THE FUTURE, STUCK IN THE PRESENTRego’s fascination for how Brazil went from industrial superpower in the 1960s and 1970s to the current nearly-permanent industrial crisis – with agriculture and services coping much of the growth in the past few years – captivates the imagination of the listener. One should not forget the mantra which became a joke: in the 1950s and 1960s Brazil was ‘the country of the future’ and it did show in things like building a new capital from scratch in just 10 years or the fast-paced urbanization in places like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro states, which had a great damaging effect on the environment. As an example: in a tropical paradise like Brazil, water is everywhere. Sao Paulo’s two rivers – Pinheiros and Tiete – are just a fraction of the several waterways that ran through the city before urbanization: they were all channeled and tunneled to make way for roads above them. Back to industry. The Brazil of the future stayed in the past. The 1980s economic crisis put the country on its knees, and China’s renaissance from the 1990s made the rest, according to Rego. “China increases sharply the competitiveness of most of its industrial products. But, as it has been said several times before, the logic in China’s economic system is not a capitalistic logic, and that has reverberations globally,” said Rego. “Globally, and locally in Brazil: China’s ascend meant Brazil’s descent, as much higher production costs here made our industrial goods less competitive. Funnily enough, this is also affecting Europe, especially in the past two years after war in Ukraine broke out and energy prices became very high.” Therefore, the US with its own shale gas revolution, the Middle East, and Asia are now the most competitive industrial regions, said Rego. Brazil’s prowess in agriculture, he added, cannot make the country forget that a healthy economy requires a strong industry, able to cater for domestic demand and also able to export. That is where Brazil’s interesting history stands at the moment. A new industrial plan recently presented by the government could help tackle some issues, said Rego, but there have been many industrial plans before and they failed to lift up industry’s prospects. Regarding chemicals, Abiquim used throughout 2023 an apocalyptic language to describe the state of the industry, warning the survival of several chemicals chains in Brazil was at risk. Rego preferred to describe Abiquim’s “necessary” lobbying as “eloquent” – but at the end of the day, the story is the same: with current high input costs, chemicals in Brazil are set to have a harder time than peers in other major economies. Front page picture: Promotional image of the Marco Legal do Saneamiento Source: Brazilian government Interview article by Jonathan Lopez

04-Apr-2024

China petrochemical futures track crude gains on upbeat March factory data

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s petrochemical futures markets were tracking gains in crude prices on Monday, with Brent trading at above $87/bbl, on bullish sentiment following a return of the world’s second-biggest economy into manufacturing expansion mode. Official, Caixin March manufacturing PMIs at above 50 China methanol, SM futures prices lead gains External demand picking up for selected goods At the close of morning trade, futures prices of major petrochemicals in Chinese commodity exchanges were up by 0.2% to 1.7%. China petrochemical futures markets Prices as of 03:30 GMT (CNY/tonne) % change vs 29 March Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) 8,279 0.60% Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 5,803 0.20% Ethylene glycol (EG) 4,499 0.50% Polypropylene (PP) 7,542 0.80% Styrene monomer (SM) 9,451 1.40% Paraxylene* 8,534 0.70% Purified terephthalic acid (PTA) * 6,016 1.30% Methanol* 2,518 1.70% Sources: Dalian Commodity Exchange, *Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange At midday, Brent crude was up 30 cents at $87.30/bbl, while US crude gained 31 cents at $83.48/bbl. Crude futures were also supported by expectations of tighter supply amid output cuts by OPEC and its allies, which include Russia. Manufacturing activity in China expanded for the first time in six months, based on official data in March, generating a purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading of 50.8, as companies accelerated production following the Lunar New Year holiday in the previous month. A separate reading by Chinese media group Caixin was more upbeat, with a higher March PMI reading of 51.1, the highest recorded since February 2023. In Caixin’s data, factory output continued to expand for the fifth straight month. The Caixin PMI surveys small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and export-oriented enterprises located in eastern coastal regions, while the official PMI is tilted toward larger state-owned enterprises. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below denotes contraction. “Both supply and demand expanded at a faster pace amid the market upturn. In March, growth in manufacturers’ output and total new orders accelerated, with the former hitting a 10-month high,” Caixin Insight Group senior economist Wang Zhe said. “External demand also picked up pace thanks to the recovery in the global economy, pushing the gauge for new export orders to its highest level since February 2023,” the economist added. “Overall, the manufacturing sector continued to improve in March, with expansion in supply and demand accelerating, and overseas demand picking up,” Wang said. “Manufacturers increased purchases and raw material inventories amid continued improvement in business optimism. However, employment remained in contraction and a depressed price level worsened,” Wang added Besides the seasonal effect, firming overseas demand also helped to push up Chinese factory activities, local brokerage Haitong Securities wrote in a note, citing that furniture, transportation equipment and electronics were enjoying strong demand. China is projected to post around a 5% GDP growth this year, slower than the 5.2% pace recorded in 2023, with a slumping property sector posing a major drag on overall economic prospects. Property and other related sectors account for about a fifth of China’s GDP. While the property slump may persist, other sectors such as electric vehicles, new energy and digital economy are posting healthy growth, said Zhang Junfeng, senior analyst at Shenzhen-based brokerage China Merchant Securities. Focus article by Fanny Zhang ($1 = CNY7.23) Additional reporting by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail image: At Lianyungang Port in east China's Jiangsu Province, 26 March 2024. (Shutterstock)

01-Apr-2024

TOPIC PAGE: Sustainability in the fertilizers industry

Updated on 27 March. On this topic page, we gather the latest news, analysis and resources, to help you to keep track of developments in the area of sustainability in the fertilizers industry. LATEST NEWS HEADLINES New urea application rules to be implemented in England from 1 April By Deepika Thapliyal 27-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–In England, famers will only be able to apply solid or liquid urea that is treated with an inhibitor from 1 April, according to new regulations from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) that come into force next month. UPM Biochemicals launches new range of bio-based plant stimulants By Sylvia Traganida 27-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–UPM Biochemicals has launched a new range of bio-based plant stimulants which is an alternative to fossil raw materials-based products, the Finnish paper and renewable chemicals firm said on Tuesday. Mabanaft signs letter of intent for supply of green ammonia from Canada By Sylvia Traganida 19-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Germany-headquartered energy firm Mabanaft has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with US-based Pattern Energy for the supply of green ammonia to Mabanaft. Yara Growth Ventures invests in electrolysis technology for low-cost renewable hydrogen By Sylvia Traganida 08-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Norwegian fertilizer major Yara has invested in Danish electrolysis technology company Dynelectro through its corporate venture capital team Yara Growth Ventures. Yara signs agreement with Acme Cleantech subsidiary on green ammonia By Sylvia Traganida 01-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Norwegian fertilizer major Yara has signed an agreement with GHC SAOC for supply of ammonia with reduced carbon emissions from Acme to Yara on a long-term basis. Idemitsu to join US clean ammonia project By Stefan Baumgarten 27-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Idemitsu Kosan has agreed to join a 1.2 million tonne/year clean ammonia project that Mitsubishi Corp and Proman plan to develop at Lake Charles, Louisiana, US, it said on Tuesday. Germany’s Heraeus invests in Japanese ammonia tech company By Stefan Baumgarten 22-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–German technology group Heraeus has invested an undisclosed amount in Tsubame BHB, a Japanese company that has developed a precious metal-based technology for decentralized ammonia production. Malaysia’s PCG, Sarawak Petchem agree to study low-carbon ammonia and urea plant By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Feb-24 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) and methanol producer Sarawak Petchem on Wednesday signed an agreement for a joint feasibility study aimed at establishing a low-carbon ammonia and urea production facility in Bintulu, Sarawak. Egypt’s Helwan signs agreement to produce black urea By Deepika Thapliyal 20-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–In Egypt, Helwan has signed an agreement with SML-INNO UK Ltd to set up the world's first vertical integrated unit to produce black urea, with a capacity of 130,000 tonnes annually, the company said today. EU eases climate proposals after widespread farmer protests By Chris Vlachopoulos 07-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that the EU has agreed to ease key demands in its climate proposal plans, following intense protests from farmers. Tecnimont awarded engineering contract for Portugal green hydrogen, ammonia plant By Graeme Paterson 05-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Tecnimont has been awarded an engineering contract to develop an integrated green hydrogen and green ammonia plant at Sines, Portugal, its parent company Maire said. EU CARBON BORDER ADJUSTMENT MECHANISM (CBAM) EXPLAINED What is it? The risk of carbon leakage frustrates the EU’s efforts to meet climate objectives. It occurs when companies transfer production to countries that are less strict on emissions, or when EU products are replaced by more carbon-intensive imports. This new mechanism would counteract this risk by putting a carbon price on imports of certain goods from outside of the EU. How will it work? EU importers will buy carbon certificates corresponding to the carbon price that would have been paid, had the goods been produced under the EU's carbon pricing rules. Conversely, once a non-EU producer can show that they have already paid a price for the carbon used in the production of the imported goods, the corresponding cost can be fully deducted for the EU importer. This will help reduce the risk of carbon leakage by encouraging producers in non-EU countries to make their production processes greener. A reporting system will apply from 2023 with the objective of facilitating a smooth roll out and to facilitate dialogue with non-EU countries. Importers will start paying a financial adjustment in 2026. How is the fertilizer industry affected? The fertilizer industry is one of the sectors to fall under the CBAM. The more energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers will be affected most in the sector by the mechanism. NEW UREA APPLICATION NORMS IN ENGLAND The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has imposed new regulations on urea application in England. Famers will only be able to apply solid or liquid urea that is treated with an inhibitor from 1 April. The move is aimed to reduce ammonia emissions, and would increase costs for farmers by an estimated £40/tonne. The new rules apply to any fertilizer that contains 1% or more of urea nitrogen, with applications of solid urea or liquid (urea ammonium nitrate) fertilizer from 1 April having to include a urease inhibitor Untreated solid urea or liquid UAN fertilizer can be applied between 15 January to 31 March each year. Untreated liquid UAN fertiliser can be applied after 1 April if agronomic justification is provided by a certified fertilizers advisor, mentioning ammonia losses will be at or below the level of when a urease inhibitor is included. Foliar urea applications targeting the crop, using normal spray nozzles do not require a urease inhibitor. The implementation of the Defra regulations was delayed by two years due to higher fertilizer prices and lack of supply following the covid pandemic and the Ukraine war. PREVIOUS  NEWS HEADLINES EU proposes relaxation in policy following farmer protests Biden Administration invests $207m in domestic fertilizer and clean energy endeavours Brazil’s state of Ceara, Bp sign MoU for green hydrogen site  Atome Energy in talks with buyers for green fertilizer from Paraguay unit Sweden's Cinis targets Asia potash market with Itochu partnership Helwan selects Eurotecnica's Euromel G5 technology for new melamine facility in Egypt India’s Adani Group plans $24bn green energy park; RIL to commission giga complex INPEX and LSB pick technology for US ammonia project Bayer partners with energy firms on hydrogen cluster in Germany S Korean group picks KBR tech for Malaysian green ammonia project Abu Qir signs MoU for green ammonia project in Egypt Yara aims to launch first container ship to run off clean ammonia India’s Odisha state approves green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol projects ADM announces launch of regenerative agriculture program in Brazil Fertiglobe completes first renewable ammonia shipment with carbon certification Allied Green Ammonia picks Topsoe’s tech for Australia project Germany’s VNG looks to secure offtake from Norwegian low carbon ammonia plant Gentari enters into agreement with AM Green to invest into a green ammonia delivery platform ITOCHU Corporation, Orascom Construction sign MOU for development of ammonia bunkering in Suez Canal India developing port infrastructure for green hydrogen exports S Korea, Saudi Arabia firms sign 46 pacts, includes blue ammonia project INSIGHT: CBAM reporting begins, fertilizer exporters to EU challenged to account for carbon KBR to supply green ammonia tech to Madoqua Power2X site in Portugal Germany’s SOM to build green hydrogen, ammonia facility in Brazil’s Piaui state US ADM and Syngenta sign MoU to collaborate on low carbon oilseeds to meet biofuel demand Tecnicas Reunidas, Allied Green Ammonia to build green hydrogen and green ammonia plant in Australia Australian fertilizer producer Orica accelerates climate change targets Nestle, Cargill and CCm Technologies launch joint UK trial on sustainable fertilizer EnBW acquires stake in planned Norwegian ammonia plant  Yara Germany signs agreement for decarbonisation of cereal cultivation using green fertilizers Hyphen, ITOCHU ink MoU to explore potential Namibia hydrogen collaboration  INSIGHT: BASF grapples with demand trough, slow road back SABIC AN ships low-carbon urea to New Zealand US Cargill and John Deere collaborate to enable revenue for farmers adopting sustainability Canada’s Lucent Bio announces approval of biodegradable nutrient delivery patent Aker, Statkraft’s 10-year PPA to spur European renewable ammonia push further BASF, Yara Clean Ammonia to evaluate low-carbon blue ammonia production facility in US Gulf Coast Yara Clean Ammonia, Cepsa to launch clean hydrogen maritime corridor EU details CBAM reporting obligations Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden exports its first low-carbon blue ammonia shipments to China US Bunge and Nutrien Ag announce alliance to support sustainable farming practices Maire subsidiary Stamicarbon wins US green ammonia engineering contract India’s IFFCO launches liquid nano-DAP fertilizer EU Parliament backs CBAM, emissions trading measures OCP granted €100m green loan to build solar plants at Morocco facilities EU unveils plans to tackle greenwashing India’s IFFCO and CIL to manufacture nano DAP for three years USDA awards Ostara funds to boost sustainable phosphate fertilizer output Canadian prime minister confirms fertilizer emission goal is voluntary US fertilizers industry increases carbon capture in 2021 – TFI Indian president calls for reduction in chemical fertilizer use IFFCO plans to export nano urea to 25 countries Amman selects Elessent Clean Technologies for Indonesia sulphuric acid plant Lotte Chemical forms clean ammonia consultative body with RWE and Mitsubishi Corporation Global 2020-2021 specialty fertilizer demand growth led by north America, Asia BASF and Cargill extend enzymes business and distribution to US Saudi Aramco awards sulphur facilities overhaul contract to Technip India sets green hydrogen targets for shipping, oil & gas, fertilizer sectors Germany misses climate target despite lower energy consumption TFI reacts to US Congress passing the Water Resources Development ActHelm becomes a shareholder in UK bio-fertilizer company Unium Bioscience Yara inks deal to deliver fossil-free green fertilizers to Argentina Canadian firms plan fuel cell generator pilot using green ammonia Deepak Fertilizers awards contract to reduce emissions, increase productivity Saudi Aramco launches $1.5bn sustainability fund to support net zero ambition CF Industries and ExxonMobil plan CCS project in Louisiana Canada’s plan to cut fertilizer emissions is voluntary – minister Canada’s fertilizer emission goal raises food production concerns Uniper, Vesta to cooperate on renewable ammonia site in the Netherlands German Uniper to work with Japan’s JERA on US clean ammonia projects ADNOC ships first cargo of low-carbon ammonia to Germany US Mosaic and BioConsortia expand collaboration to microbial biostimulant IMO deems Mediterranean Sea area for sulphur oxides emissions control Canada's Soilgenic launches new enhanced efficiency fertilizers technology for retail Austria's Borealis aims to produce 1.8m tonnes/year of circular products by 2030 European Parliament rejects proposed carbon market reform IFA ’22: southern Africa looks to bio-fertilizer as cheaper, sustainable option IFA '22: Indian farmers will struggle to embrace specialty fertilizers – producer Canadian Nutrien plans to build world’s largest clean ammonia facility in Louisiana Japan's JGC Holdings awards green ammonia plant contract to KBR Bayer to partner with Ginkgo to produce sustainable fertilizers Australia Orica and H2U Group partner on Gladstone green ammonia project Canada sets tax credit of up to 60% for carbon capture projects UK delays urea restrictions to support farmers as fertilizer costs at record high EU states agree to back carbon border tax Yara to develop novel green fertilizer from recycled nutrients USDA announces plans for $250m grant programme to support American-made fertilizer Canada seeks guidance to achieve fertilizer emissions target Fertilizer titan Pupuk Indonesia develops hydrogen/blue ammonia business India launches green hydrogen/ammonia policy, targets exports Canada AmmPower to develop green hydrogen and ammonia facility in Louisiana US DOE awards grant to project to recover rare earth elements from phosphate production Fertiglobe, Masdar, Engie to develop green hydrogen for ammonia production Czech Republic’s Spolana enhances granular AS production India’s Reliance to invest $80bn in green energy projects Yara, Sweden’s Lantmannen aim to commercialise green ammonia by 2023 Novatek and Uniper target Russia to Germany blue-ammonia supply chain Fertz giant Yara goes green with electrification of Norwegian factoryCanada Arianne Phosphate exploring use of phosphate for hydrogen technology FAO and IFA renew MoU to promote sustainable fertilizer use Sumitomo Chemical, Yara to explore clean ammonia collaboration Sri Lanka revokes ban on imports Tokyo scientists convert bioplastic into nitrogen fertilizer Aramco plans Saudi green hydrogen, ammonia project China announces action plan for carbon peaking & neutrality Saudi Aramco targets net zero emissions from operations by 2050 Fertiglobe goes green with Red Sea zero-carbon ammonia pro Australian fertilizer major Incitec Pivot teams up for green ammonia study INTERVIEW: BASF to scale up new decarbonisation tech in second half of decade – CEO India asks fertilizer companies to speed up production of nano DAP Japan's Itochu set to receive first cargo of blue ammonia for fertilizer use Norway's Yara acquires recycled fertilizers maker Ecolan Bayer Funds US start-up aims to cut nitrogen fertilizer use by 30% BP: Green ammonia production in Australia feasible, but needs huge investment Origin and MOL explore shipping green ammonia from Australia India’s IFFCO seeks to export nano urea fertilizer Sri Lanka reinstates ban on import of chemical fertilizers Nutrien to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030 RESOURCES IFA – Fertilizers and climate change  TFI – Sustainability report 

27-Mar-2024

INSIGHT: SAF catalyst technology could also boost biochemicals production

LONDON and BARCELONA (ICIS)–Catalyst technology used to power the first transatlantic flight conducted by a commercial airline which used 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), could also have applications in chemicals production if a market can be developed to allow for commercial scale up. The SAF used on the voyage, dubbed Flight100, was a SAF blend containing 88% HEFA hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) supplied by AirBP, the specialised aviation division of BP, and 12% SAK synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) supplied by Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Virent developed the SAK in conjunction with Johnson Matthey, using the latter’s proprietary BioForming sugars to aromatic process. Feedstocks such as sugar beet, sugar cane, and corn are currently used in the process, which is also capable of utilising cellulosic sugars as feedstock. Current forms of SAF linked to HEFA and Fischer Tropsch Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (FT-SPK) require conventional jet fuel blending to enable an 8-25% aromatics presence to enable optimum fuel burning. Fossil-based conventional jet kerosene is blended with HEFA and FT-SPK based SAF to create a balance between the paraffins and aromatics required to ensure proper fuel system operations. The BioForming sugars to aromatics process results in bio-based aromatics in the SAK, which enables up to a 100% drop in form of SAF, and can be compatible as a jet kerosene replacement. The SAK can also be blended with other types of SAF to boost the overall SAF content in the fuel mix. The BioForming process could potentially play a vital role in helping scale up the much-needed global SAF capacity expansion required to meet the aviation sectors’ aim to reduce emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted a global framework in November 2023, in which member states committed to strive towards reducing carbon emissions in international aviation by 5% by 2030 using SAF, low carbon aviation fuels, and other clean energy sources. The EU is implementing a minimum SAF blend of 2% starting from 2025. Mandated SAF blending rates in airports across the bloc will increase to 6% by 2030, 20% by 2035, and 34% by 2040, eventually reaching 70% by 2050. The US Department of Energy (DOE) published a plan that sees the country potentially meeting 100% of its projected jet fuel demand with SAF by 2050. A 10% blending target by 2030 has also been set by the OneWorld airline alliance, which includes British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, and others as members. Currently, SAF makes up just over 0.1% in the global aviation fuel mix, which continues to be dominated by fossil-based jet kerosene. Johnson Matthey must overcome any possible financial hurdles that may arise before it can scale up its BioForming technology. Clariant was forced to shutdown its bioethanol plant in Podari, Romania, which also used cellulosic biomass as a feedstock. The company struggled to license out its Sunliquid technology while grappling to ramp up capacity of its bioethanol plant amid challenging operating economics. Johnson Matthey and other companies spearheading technological developments in biofuels and bio-chemicals will have to consider lessons incurred from other projects and integrate such learnings into future plans. BIOCHEMICAL FEEDSTOCK POTENTIAL According to David Kettner, president and general counsel at Virent, this technology has huge potential as a feedstock for chemicals production because it can use a variety of feedstocks to produce the sugars required for the process. This includes lignocellulosic sugars from woody biomass or agricultural residues. One third of the output of the process can be used for biochemical production and the company has already cooperated with companies such as Coca Cola where it produced bio-polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging. Virent also cooperated with Japan’s Toray Industries to produce polymers which were used by the Patagonia clothing brand to produce a 100% bio-based polyester product. The chemical feedstock produced by the process most closely resembles mixed xylenes. “The stream itself looks very much similar to what you would see coming out of a reforming unit," Kettner said. "You would take your mixed xylenes cut and be able to put it directly into existing processes for the production of benzene, toluene and xylenes, all of which have strong uses in polymer applications.” He said a demonstration plant currently produces around one barrel/day of bio-reformate with the potential to scale up to commercial levels “very comfortably”. Iain Gilmore, senior manager of Catalyst Technologies at Johnson Matthey added: “We are working at the moment with Virent and Marathon at commercializing the technology and we're pretty confident we can get the size of plants up in the region of 300,000-400,000 tonnes/year of bio-reformate. The project is going through the engineering and design phase, but is not yet at the stage where a formal announcement will be made. Johnson Matthey and Virent have also developed a joint licensing model which is currently being taken to market, led by Johnson Matthey. Insight by Nazif Nazmul and Will Beacham Thumbnail photo: A 100% SAF-fuelled Virgin Atlantic flight (Source: Justin Lane/EPA/EFE/Shutterstock)

20-Mar-2024

INSIGHT: Altair Chemical drives for sustainability/performance with focus on renewables

GALLARATE, Italy (ICIS)–The global chlor-alkali market has faced significant change through recent years of economic underperformance, including fluctuations in demand, price volatility, supply chain disruptions, cost reduction measures, market consolidation, and a greater focus on efficiency and innovation. Adapting to these changes has been vitally important for producers to navigate the continued challenging economic environment and to sustain operations. A shift to renewable power for chlor-alkali production is gathering pace as producers seek a more environmentally friendly means of producing chlorine and caustic soda while keeping an eye on costs. Electricity is the main cost element for chlor-alkali producers and can be seen as the major feedstock for plants in which a salt solution is split electrochemically into its component elements. In Italy, Esseco Industrial completed a merger within its industrial group at the start of this year that consolidates its chlor-alkali, caustic potash and hydrochloric acid operations giving it the prospect of capitalising on production, management, logistics and storage synergies. It has merged the activities of Hydrochem, a chlor-alkali production facility in Pieve Vergonte, in the Piemonte region, with Altair Chimica, a caustic potash (KOH) production location in Tuscany. The Hydrochem venture now operates as part of a globally strengthened Esseco Industrial, Roberto Vagheggi, general director of Esseco Industrial and CEO of the company’s chlor-alkali division told ICIS in an interview. Esseco Industrial produces organic and inorganic chemicals and has a turnover of some €700m. It is part of the Esseco Group, a family-run holding with over a century of history, which offers products and services for the organic and inorganic chemistry industry, specializing in sulfur derivatives and chlor-alkali. The corporate merger represents a step in a process started some time ago within Esseco Industrial and an investment of more than €50m. The Pieve Vergonte plant was hit hard by an economic crisis that began in 2019 and has had to be re-launched onto the chlor-alkali market. It faced the significant challenge of moving to membrane production and the elimination of mercury. Previously, in 2011 Esseco Group purchased Saline di Volterra, in Tuscany, its main Italian customer for caustic potash (KOH), the acquisition being an important milestone for the company. The Pieve Vergonte and Saline di Volterra sites have chlorine capacities of 45,000 tonnes/year and 80,000 tonnes thousand tonnes/year respectively. Altair Chimica was one of the first European companies to move to membrane technology and abandon mercury cell production. It signed an agreement with Italy’s Ministry of the Environment and the EU for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Saline di Voltera plant, to eliminate mercury and to reduce electricity consumption and the use of water from a nearby river. A new caustic potash plant, the first of its type, was built from scratch at the site. Vagheggi said that the merger with Hyrdochem has made it possible to streamline all processes for Altair Chemical from production to sales and through to post-sales thanks to new synergies and a renewed dialogue between the two plants. “The objective is to maximize production capacity, strengthen industrial activity under a single organisation, strengthen synergies between plants by sharing both storage management and logistics planning so that processes can be made as efficient as possible sales, offering customers high quality standards,” Vagheggi said. Esseco Industrial is environmentally sustainable, as it mainly uses renewable energy. Two proprietary hydroelectric power plants are operational in the Pieve Vergonte plant, which has allowed the company to exceed 75% use of renewable energy in internal consumption, making the site among the few that can be considered environmentally sustainable of their kind. Esseco Industrial says that it strongly believes in the energy transition. Thanks to a mix that also includes photovoltaic and process steam, the division consumes over 50% green energy and more than 55% energy with zero CO2 emissions. Another significant energy element is the hydrogen produced in Esseco Industrial by electrolysis (using, as mentioned, 50% renewable energy). This in turn, contributes to the decarbonisation of the thermal energy necessary for chemical reactions. Hydrogen is combined with chlorine to produce hydrochloric acid. “Today the company is working on future projects for the production of renewable hydrogen which will complement the hydrogen already produced by the chlorine/soda and chlorine/potash plants” Vagheggi said. Insight by Valentina Cherubin

19-Mar-2024

Americas top stories: weekly summary

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 15 March. US CPI inflation 'sticky' at 3.2%, may delay Fed rate cuts – ICIS economist US inflation, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI), rose 0.4% month on month in February, leaving it up 3.2% year on year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Tuesday. LyondellBasell sees signs of modest improvement in Q1 – CEO LyondellBasell is seeing some indications of modest improvement in its businesses, particularly in North America and Europe, with packaging being the strongest end market, its CEO said on Wednesday. US Trinseo seeks to sell stake in AmSty Trinseo has started the process to sell its 50% stake in Americas Styrenics (AmSty), the US-based engineered materials producer said on Wednesday. US outage to boost March Asia-Atlantic spot acetic acid, VAM trades Asia-Atlantic spot trades for acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) are expected to increase after supply gaps in the US and Europe emerged following an unexpected plant outage in the US. Potential for oil market deficit in 2024 as demand expectations grow – IEA Higher oil demand expectations and fresh production cuts from the OPEC+ alliance could push the 2024 crude market balance from a surplus to a slight deficit if the voluntary reductions remain in place for the rest of the year, according to the International Energy Agency. INSIGHT: US aromatics, refining output recedes as peak oil approaches Peak oil demand in the US could lead to a further decline in refining capacity, which will tighten supplies of benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX) for downstream chemical producers. Unipar expects hardship in Argentina but Brazil PVC demand should recover Unipar’s operations in Argentina are set to face pressure from the current recession but a bright spot could appear in higher civil engineering activity in Brazil, propping up demand for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the Brazilian chemicals producer said on Friday.

18-Mar-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 15 March. Europe ethylene and propylene sentiment cautiously optimistic for remainder of H1 Given the better-than-expected demand conditions, with improved sales volumes and higher prices lifting many out of the mire that was 2023, the question on everyone’s lips is how long can we expect this state of affairs to last. Potential for oil market deficit in 2024 as demand expectations grow – IEA Higher oil demand expectations and fresh production cuts from the OPEC+ alliance could push the 2024 crude market balance from a surplus to a slight deficit if the voluntary reductions remain in place for the rest of the year, according to the International Energy Agency. Surging PET bottle bale prices threaten to ‘destroy’ Europe’s R-PET market Feedstock bale prices hit €930/tonne ex-works in Poland on Monday, prompting recycled PET participants to suggest such price levels threaten to destroy the R-PET market as they fear a repeat of 2022’s disastrous price volatility. Europe acetic acid, VAM contract talks for March focus on supply disruption March negotiations are underway for European acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) contract pricing with security of supply a key influence on negotiations amid LyondellBasell’s force majeure in the US and other disruptions to global trade flows. Caution caps optimism as peak season arrives for Europe styrene market Spot activity in the Europe styrene market was moderate in the week ended 8 March, as players attended a key industry event, while cautious and conservative sentiment persisted alongside crosswinds from ongoing demand weakness and thin liquidity, high feedstock costs and reduced availability. Participants pointed to only slight improvements in demand and market optimism from levels seen in 2023. Europe cracker margins up on firmer ethylene, co-products pricing Cracker margins in Europe rose in the week on the back of firmer ethylene and co-product pricing, ICIS Margin Analysis showed on Monday.

18-Mar-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 15 March 2024. INSIGHT: Indorama exit from PET feedstock markets to spur China PTA exports By Nurluqman Suratman 15-Mar-24 11:42 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Demand for China’s purified terephthalic acid (PTA) will get a boost as Indorama Ventures Ltd (IVL), a global producer of downstream polyethylene terephthalate (PET), shifts away from expensive integrated operations. INSIGHT: Policies announced in China Two Sessions will impact domestic petchems market in 2024 By Jimmy Zhang 14-Mar-24 23:07 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's Two Sessions earlier this month – the yearly meetings where its legislature sets laws and its advisory body offers policy recommendations – attracted attention from the market for the growth targets set and announcements on expected future economic development. According to Premier Li Qiang, China's GDP growth target is “around 5.0%”. US outage to boost March Asia-Atlantic spot acetic acid, VAM trades By Hwee Hwee Tan 14-Mar-24 12:26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia-Atlantic spot trades for acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) are expected to increase after supply gaps in the US and Europe emerged following an unexpected plant outage in the US. Asia caustic soda market could be underpinned by snug supply, limited vessel space By Jonathan Chou 13-Mar-24 15:40 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's liquid caustic soda spot supply may remain snug in the near term, while demand could continue its gradual growth into the second quarter (Q2) of 2024. PODCAST: China Group III base oils market sees supply, demand changes By Whitney Shi 12-Mar-24 15:53 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–In this podcast, ICIS Senior Industry Analyst Whitney Shi and ICIS Assistant Industry Analyst Jady Ma talk about supply and demand changes in China’s Group III base oils market. Saudi Aramco '23 profit falls on softer crude; ’24 focus on downstream growth By Nurluqman Suratman 11-Mar-24 12:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Energy giant Saudi Aramco's net profit in 2023 fell by 24.7% to Saudi riyal (SR) 454.8bn ($121.3bn), weighed by weaker crude oil prices as well as lower refining and chemical margins.

18-Mar-2024

INSIGHT: Indorama exit from PET feedstock markets to spur China PTA exports

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Demand for China’s purified terephthalic acid (PTA) will get a boost as Indorama Ventures Ltd (IVL), a global producer of downstream polyethylene terephthalate (PET), shifts away from expensive integrated operations. IVL plant closures likely to focus on PTA – sources Tariff barriers dampen growth prospects for China PTA, PET exports China pins hopes on Belt and Road Initiative for new markets IVL cited overcapacity in China as one of the principal reasons for its new strategy – to procure cheaper feedstock from Asia, instead of running integrated facilities in the US. “A large portion of the refineries in the West are aged and losing their competitiveness. These facilities are expected to gradually close in the future,” ICIS senior analyst Jimmy Zhang said. The Thai company is the largest global PET resin producer with a 20% global market share and operates 147 production facilities in 35 countries, with its sales footprint covering over 100 countries in six regions – North America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and South America. IVL 2.0 CALLS FOR SHUTDOWN OF SOME PTA UNITS Globally, IVL has a total production capacity of around 19m tonnes/year, the bulk of which or 67% are in combined PET business, which covers integrated PET, specialty chemicals and packaging, according to Thai investment research firm Innovest Securities. Integrated olefins derivatives account for 21% of the total capacity, while fibres have a share of 12%, it added. Market players said that in the US, IVL may prioritize shutting down PTA units over monoethylene glycol (MEG) units, whose production costs are still competitive compared with other global producers, thanks to their use of shale gas. “Given the current economic and market conditions, it is a wise decision to sell the assets which could not make money to ‘save its life’,” a trader in Asia said. In Asia, IVL currently operates three PTA assets – two in Thailand and one in Indonesia. According to market sources, the company could potentially mothball one of its less cost-effective PTA units in Thailand due to old age and technical issuSes. Its operations in Indonesia can better serve India, benefitting from competitive freight rates to IVL’s key market in Asia, they said. For now, IVL’s PTA plants in Asia still hold a unique export advantage in the south Asian country, as they are certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). This certification was mandated by India late last year. Currently, no Chinese PTA producers have obtained BIS certification, reducing competition for IVL from Chinese imports. Origin swaps for PTA have taken place, with lower priced China cargoes being exported into southeast Asia as well as their downstream PET asset in Egypt. This enables Indorama to push for more exports to India at a much better price netback. This will unlikely change unless China PTA producers are able to obtain the BIS certification from India. Under its new masterplan dubbed “IVL 2.0”, IVL said that it will be reviewing six operating assets in the ‘West’ for potential shutdown, as it seeks to boost competitiveness. Including the Corpus Christi Polymers (CCP) joint venture project with Alpek and Far Eastern New Century (FENC) whose construction was halted, the number of projects under review total seven. IVL chief Aloke Lohia said that feedstock prices in Western markets are expected to increase over time as peak oil demand draws closer and refineries shut down, while the reverse will occur in emerging Asian markets as capacity rises, driving feedstock costs lower. The rise in refining capacity in China and India allows IVL to buy petrochemical feedstocks cheaper than they could produce them domestically,  Lohia had told ICIS. CHINA CAN FILL IN IVL PTA NEEDS China has the ability to export PTA at much lower cost amid a domestic oversupply, with the country’s annual production capacity now at more than 70m tonnes, only a small fraction of which – around 3m tonnes – are shipped abroad, according to the ICIS Supply & Demand Database. Over the years, China has continually increased its capacity across the entire polyester chain, granting Chinese producers a significant advantage in integration and scale for paraxylene (PX), PTA and PET, Zhang said. The country is now a major PTA exporter and has swung from being the world’s biggest net importer of polyester fibres and PET resins (bottle and film grade) to being the biggest net exporter, ICIS senior Asia consultant John Richardson said. But trade barriers in several countries hamper imports from China, raising the likelihood of “more barter trading activities” in the future, Zhang said. He is referring to a process in which Chinese cargoes will move to a duty-free country, which, in turn, will re-sell the volumes. With the change of origin, the cargoes can then be sold to markets with existing trade barriers to China duty free. “For example, it is likely that China will export more PTA to South Korea, while South Korea will export more PTA to other countries who set trading barriers for China,” Zhang said. CHINA CHANGES APPROACH TO TRADEWith anti-dumping investigations curtailing direct exports of PET to certain markets, China is moving away from western markets, shifting its focus on those covered by free-trade agreements within its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). The country’s PET export market has shrunk since mid-2023 after the EU started anti-dumping investigations, with provisional duties on Chinese material activated in November of the same year. Anti-dumping investigations against Chinese PET, meanwhile, are ongoing in Mexico in North America and South Korea in Asia. China is expanding free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and non-BRI member countries to counter growing geopolitical differences with the west, potentially leading to a shift in trading patterns as Chinese apparel and non-apparel production moves offshore to these nations, ICIS’ Richardson said. Overseas plants could be supplied by China-made polyester fibres, allowing the country to retain dominance in the global polyester value chain and offset rising labour costs, Richardson said. “Offshoring to the developing world may also enable China to make up for any lost exports of finished polyester-products to the West due to increased trade tensions,” Richardson added. China had signed 21 free trade agreements with 28 countries and regions as of August 2023, according to the Chinese state-owned Xinhua news agency. More than 80 countries and international organizations had subscribed to the “initiative on promoting unimpeded trade cooperation along the Belt and Road”, which is part of the BRI, it said. Source: Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) Insight article by Nurluqman Suratman With contributions from Judith Wang and Samuel Wong Thumbnail image: Canal Container Transport, Huai'an, China – 12 March 2024 (Costfoto/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)

15-Mar-2024

BLOG: China PX net annual average imports may fall to 700,000 tonnes in 2024-2030

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson: Only a few people thought that China would reach self-sufficiency in purified terephthalic acid (PTA). I was among the few. Now China is a major PTA exporter. This followed China swinging from being the world’s biggest net importer of polyester fibres and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins (bottle and film grade) to being the biggest net exporter. Paraxylene (PX) could be the next shoe to drop as today’s post discusses. Given China’s total domination of global PX net imports – and the concentration of major PX exports in just a small number of countries and companies – the potential disruption to the global business is huge. The ICIS Base Case assumes China’s PX demand growth will average 1% per annum in 2024-2030 with the local operating rate at 82%. Such an outcome would lead to China’s net PX imports at annual average of 7.4m tonnes in 2024-2030. This would compare with 2023 net imports of 9.1m tonnes. Downside Scenario 1 sees demand growth the same as in the base case. But under Downside Scenario 1, I raise the local operating rate to 88%, the same as the 1993-2023 average. I also add 6.2m tonnes/year to China’s capacity, which comprises unconfirmed plants in our database. Downside 1 would result in net imports dropping to a 2024-2030 annual average of just 1.5m tonnes/year. Downside Scenario 2 again sees demand growth the same as in the base case, an operating rate of 90% and 6.2m tonnes/year of unconfirmed capacity Net imports would fall to an annual average of just 700,000 tonnes a year. As an important 26 February 2024 Financial Times article explores, China continues to build free-trade agreements with Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and non-BRI member countries as a hedge against growing geopolitical differences with the West. We could thus see a significant shift in trading patterns as more Chinese apparel and non-apparel production moves offshore to these countries, with the overseas plants fed by China-made polyester fibres. China could thus maintain its dominance of the global polyester value chain via this offshoring process, thereby compensating for its rising labour costs. Offshoring to the developing world may also enable China to make up for any lost exports of finished polyester-products to the West due to increased trade tensions. This shift in downstream investments and trade flows could provide economic justification for just about complete PX and mono-ethylene glycols (MEG) self-sufficiency, which will be the subject of a future post. These are the only two missing pieces in China’s polyester jigsaw puzzle. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.

13-Mar-2024

Events and training

Events

Build your networks and grow your business at ICIS’ industry-leading events. Hear from high-profile speakers on the issues, technologies and trends driving commodity markets.

Training

Keep up to date in today’s dynamic commodity markets with expert online and in-person training covering chemicals, fertilizers and energy markets.

Contact us

In today’s dynamic and interconnected chemicals markets, partnering with ICIS unlocks a vision of a future you can trust and achieve. Our unrivalled network of chemicals industry experts delivers a comprehensive market view based on trusted data, insight and analytics, supporting our partners as they transact today and plan for tomorrow.

Get in touch to find out more.

READ MORE