Acrylonitrile markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, Europe and the US by our network of locally based reporters.
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Updated to Q3 2019
Asia acrylonitrile prices started to rebound since July owing to tight supply. INEOS Nitrile had force majeure at its Green Lake, US, plant and could not supply volumes to Asia, so contractual buyers came out to buy spot cargoes. There were also turnarounds and plant issues in northeast Asia and China that tightened supply further. Before mid-September, Jiangsu Sailboat Petrochemical started up its new No. 2 plant. In India, some deepsea cargoes were available.
A tightened supply was countered by weak downstream demand from the acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and acrylic fibre sectors. The US-China trade war escalated in Q3 and further dampened buying interest. From mid-August, spot prices in China and northeast Asia remained largely flat, as buyers held back from purchases in anticipation of a new plant start-up in China. The volatility in currency exchange rates also dampened appetite for import cargoes and buyers looked to the sourcing from domestic China market.
The supply of acrylonitrile (ACN) remained tight in Q3. A force majeure remained in place at the INEOS Nitriles’ site in Seal Sands, UK, which was first announced in February. A plant maintenance was carried out at the site at the end of July for one month, but the restart was unsuccessful and the site was down through September. Some planned maintenance was also carried out at the company’s larger line in Dormagen, Germany, in September. Lukoil had a planned turnaround from 10 September for one month.
The acrylic fibre (AF) sector and other downstream markets such as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) saw poor demand during the quarter with units said to be running between at a rate of 70-90%, depending on player. The smaller acrylamide market was said to have seen some of the healthiest offtake.
The supply of US acrylonitrile (ACN) increased in Q3 amid the restart of INEOS Nitriles’ Green Lake, Texas plant, which resumed full operating rates in August. Supply also improved with the restart of AN3 at Ascend’s Chocolate Bayou plant and high operating rates at Cornerstone Chemical’s Frontier, Louisiana, plant.
US domestic demand for ACN was healthy for downstream derivatives. Weak demand in China put downward pressure on the derivatives markets in Asia, which eased demand for spot export material to the region.
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Acrylonitrile (ACN) is used to make acrylic fibres, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN)
Acrylonitrile (ACN) is a clear, colourless or pale yellow flammable liquid with a sweet, pungent, irritating odour. It is partially soluble in water, soluble in most organic solvents (including ethyl alcohol, acetone, benzene, carbon tetrachloride and ethyl acetate), very reactive and polymerises violently in the presence of alkalis or peroxides.
ACN is used mainly as a monomer or comonomer in the production of synthetic fibres, plastics and elastomers. The largest outlet is in the manufacture of acrylic fibres, which are used in clothing. Acrylic fibres also have uses in home furnishings and bedding.
An important outlet for ACN is the acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)/styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) market.
The dominant route for the manufacture of ACN is the one-step propylene ammoxidation process, replacing the original acetylene-based technology. New technology based on propane ammoxidation is being developed by a number of ACN producers with claims of a 30% production cost advantage compared to the propylene route.
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