Our Caustic Soda reports are published weekly in Asia, China, Europe, Latin America and the US, giving industry participants a truly global view of market movements.
There are solid and liquid spot quotations, depending on the region, and market news including information on shipping, international trade, upstream and downstream movements, as well as production issues. This analysis and intelligence equips you with the information you need to make vital business assessments.
Updated to Q3 2019
Supply of caustic soda in Asia increased, with regional integrated chlor-alkali producers pushing run rates high. This was in order to output co-product chlorine into the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) after India, the world’s largest PVC import market, removed anti-dumping duties on PVC cargoes of all origins except China and the US in June. Northeast Asian (except China producers) have subsequently enjoyed better overall netbacks, despite increased supply of caustic soda outstripping regional demand.
Demand was muted, with industrial derivatives of caustic soda said to be seeing weakened interest in recent months amid a slowing global economy. Pockets of healthy demand were still seen however, such as from southeast Asia. Demand for caustic soda is driven by various industries, such as alumina refiners, rayon, and water treatment.
Caustic soda supply was stable or higher in the third quarter depending on the region. Stocks were below average historical levels according to Eurochlor’s July statistics, but the extent varied by region with market players in Iberia continuing to see healthy levels. European prices trended downwards overall for the quarter as the market moved closer to historical levels following an increase in 2017-2018. The longer global market also indirectly impacted Europe, with the Mediterranean market lengthening.
European caustic soda demand and consumption in related markets was lower in the third quarter, as a result of both seasonal and economic factors. Caustic soda demand tracks trends in the economy and manufacturing, with the outlook for both becoming both pessimistic in northwest and southern Europe. In the Mediterranean and Black Sea demand was lower with Turkish consumption slumping and southern Europe also impacted by higher economic uncertainty.
Caustic soda supply in Latin America in Q3 2019 was ample in most countries with the exception of Brazil, where large volumes of imports from the US and the Middle East resulted in oversupply in August, prompting suppliers to offer exports to other Latin American countries. Operating rates at Brazil’s Alunorte’s alumina refinery were at about 80% of capacity, while Jamaica’s alumina refiner Alpart decided to close its plant. Both refiners are major consumers of US caustic soda.
Caustic soda demand in Latin America during the quarter was sluggish mainly due to depressed economies in the region and reduced operating rates by Brazil’s Alunorte that only reached about 80% of capacity. Demand was strong in Brazil as local producer Braskem shut down its caustic soda plant due to shortage of salt resulting from subsidence at its Maceio, Alagoas mine. The producer is investigating different options to import salt and to mine in new locations in Brazil.
Supply of US liquid caustic soda began to decline during the third quarter as massive volumes of exports were shipped to Brazil. The increase in exports was due to a chlor-alkali plant outage in that country and the resumption of higher operating rates at Alunorte, the US’s largest single buyer of US exports. But the increased shipments only reduced what amounted to a significant supply overhang, moving the market closer to balance.
Demand during the third quarter grew on a chlor-alkali plant outage in Brazil. Domestic demand held relatively stable during the quarter with flooding on the Mississippi River slowing barge and other business.
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Caustic soda, with its co-product chlorine, is produced via an electrolysis of brine, in the ratio of one part chlorine to 1.1 parts caustic soda.
Caustic soda is a white, deliquescent solid in various forms with no odour. It is very soluble in ethyl alcohol and water. It is a strong base, reacts violently with acid and is corrosive in moist air to metals like zinc, aluminium, tin and lead forming a combustible/explosive gas (hydrogen). It rapidly absorbs carbon dioxide and water from air while contact with moisture or water may generate heat.
Its main uses are in the manufacture of pulp and paper, alumina, soap and detergents, petroleum products and chemical production. Other applications include water treatment, food, textiles, metal processing, mining, glass making and others.
The production of alumina from bauxite is a major end-use application for caustic soda.
Caustic soda is a basic feedstock in the manufacture of a wide range of chemicals. It is used as an intermediate and a reactant in processes that produce solvents, plastics, synthetic fibres, bleach, adhesives, coatings, herbicides, dyes, inks and pharmaceuticals.
Other uses include the saponification or conversion of fat, tallow and vegetable oils in soap manufacture, and in the manufacture of surfactants for detergents. It is used in the petroleum and natural gas industries to remove acidic materials from hydrocarbons and off-gases. In the textile sector, it is used in the chemical processing of cotton and the dyeing of synthetic fibres.
Chlor alkali production in the US and Brazil
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