The Maleic Anhydride markets are covered weekly by ICIS in Asia, Europe and the US. Our locally based reporters gather benchmark pricing assessments for both liquid and flake/molten material. Contracts are agreed in all three regions, while spot price updates are for Asia and Europe only.
The news and market intelligence that supports any price movements, gives details on demand, supply, regional updates, upstream activity, production news and any other influencing factors at the time of publication. This universally trusted insight ensures you have the information you need to make key strategic business decisions.
Updated to Q1 2021
MA supplies were tight at the beginning of Q1, as many regional plants were still low on inventories, having just returned from maintenance closures in late 2020/early 2021. But the shortage eased towards the end of Q1 when stocks were restored, and more cargoes started to surface from China too.
Demand was healthy during Q1, with off-take well supported by positive post-coronavirus recovery in related downstream industries such as automobile and construction. In China, MA also enjoyed robust off-take from the downstream BDO sector, following a spike in Q1 demand for BDO within the country.
The tight supply situation from Q4 2020 worsened in Q1 2021, leaving major buyers just about able to secure their needs. Reduced imports due to logistical issues and some lingering production hiccups were aggravated by the extreme cold temperatures in February and early March that disrupted transportation and access to raw materials for some producers. A European major conducted planned maintenance and a failure to restart set domestic supply back even further.
Demand across most applications strengthened in Q1 as the automotive and construction sectors continued to catch up on 2020 losses. The UPR sector has seen a substantial increase in demand, with some order books up by 15% from Q4 2020, and Q1 demand levels at all-time highs. Q1 consumption has increased, in particular, for applications going into electronics and packaging.
US MA faced tight supply-demand fundamentals, with one plant going down due to the polar storm. Some Asian material flowed to the US, but this was limited by higher netbacks in Europe and extended lead times.
Buyers flocked to overseas markets for product as supply out of the US Gulf took a hit after the storm. Only delayed contract material flowed from the US to Europe. The storm impacted auto production due to the shortage of chemicals. Other end-users also curtailed production due to the lack of one or more raw materials.
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Maleic anhydride (MA) is derived from butane in the US. In Europe and Asia, MA is derived predominantly from butane units, although a small amount is produced by benzene units.
Maleic anhydride (MA) occurs as colourless or white crystalline flakes with strong acrid (pungent) odour. It is soluble in acetone, ether, petroleum fractions and reacts with water, evolving heat and forming MA. It also dimerises to 1,2,3,4 -cyclobutane tetracarboxylic acid dianhydride in the presence of UV light.
MA is mostly used to make unsaturated polyester resins (UPRs). UPRs are used in a wide range of applications including bathroom fixtures and automobiles.
The second-largest outlet for MA is 1,4 butanediol (BDO) and derivatives tetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL).
MA is available as liquid (molten) or solid (flake): the liquid form dominates and accounts for 90-95% of the market, which is not easily transportable.
MA is produced commercially by the oxidation of benzene or butane. The butane-based process is considered to have superior economics and is the preferred route by most producers. However, a small amount is produced by the benzene route.