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Updated to Q2 2021
Saudi Arabia’s Tasnee and South Korea’s LG Chem resumed normal operations, although inventories remained low. India’s Bharat Petrochemical Corp Ltd started up the new AA plant in April. Formosa Plastics Corpin Taiwan had NBA issues and its AA and acrylates units were shut for a planned maintenance from end-May until H1 June. Malaysia’s BASF Petronas had an outage at the AA unit in the weekend of 5 June for around three weeks, and force majeure was declared on AA and acrylate esters on 16 June.
Demand was stable to subdued but the strong buying interest seen in Q2 was largely attributed to tight spot supply amid outages, as buyers sought to cover their minimum requirements. A resurgence of COVID-19, as well as increased restrictions and lockdowns in India and southeast Asia curbed production and demand. Demand from other regions was firm due to force majeures and outages in the US and Europe.
Supply worsened after Dow declared force majeure on GAA in April. Arkema also had a force majeure on GAA, which ran from late April to early May. This constrained supply in Europe. At the same time, imports were limited as the US market was more attractive for Asian exports, which were saddled with higher freight rates, shipping costs and limited cargo space.
Demand for AA remained strong in Q2. The coatings and paints sector was strong all quarter, continuing a trend seen since the start of the year. Other areas, including the downstream acrylate esters, adhesives and water treatment sectors, all enjoyed persistent, robust demand.
For the first half of Q2, supply was tight due to production limitations in the aftermath of winter storm Uri. In June, following the removal of a force majeure on multiple acrylates at a major producer, supply began to lengthen. Subsequently, a force majeure was lifted on GAA at the very end of Q2. However, supply was still snug after months of reduced output, especially in the spot market.
Demand increased in the spring, as the US economy opened up following a steady decline in coronavirus cases and gradual lifting of restrictions that were in place during the winter case spike, which occurred prior to widespread vaccine availability. The paints and coatings sector is a buyer of both acrylic acid and acrylate esters, and demand from end-users outpaced availability throughout the quarter, even as sales allocations were loosened.
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Acrylic Acid and Acrylate Esters in Europe are covered under separate entries. These products are combined in the regional reports published in Asia and the United States. Please see separate entries for information on the European market.
Acrylate esters are colourless liquids with acrid odours, and are traded as technical grade (99% purity). Methyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate are toxic enough to require a hazardous shipping label, while butyl acrylate and 2-ethylhexyl acrylate (2EHA) are considered safe.
Acrylate esters are used in the manufacture of surface coatings/paints and resins, adhesives and plastics, dispersions and in some cases paper.
They are readily polymerised if exposed in water, to form a latex (a dispersion of solid particles in water) such as latex paints.
An associated product is methyl methacrylate. Acrylate esters are made from the reaction of an alcohol to an acid such as acrylic acid. This process is called esterification.