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.
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Updated to Q4 2019
Spot availabilities maleic anhydride (MA) were tighter on some plant turnarounds during the quarter, as well as by reduced outflow of cargoes from China. Chinese MA makers were preoccupied with domestic sales and cut back on exports consequently.
Buying appetite was curtailed for much of the quarter, as major downstream industries like automobile and construction continued to struggle amid the global economic slowdown. Most end-users were reluctant to hold MA stocks and kept purchases to a strictly need-to basis.
Production of MA saw no outages and the market, which experienced some length in Q3, re-balanced slightly mainly on fewer imports for the last 4-5 months of the year. One small producer of MA exited the market, shutting down its plant in southern Europe, leaving a small market share to be filled.
The market saw overall a healthier demand than expected. Despite December being a very short trading window and the onus being on destocking, volumes moved in the first two months compensated the lack of trading opportunity of the last month allowing the market to re-balance slightly. However, Q4 remains a slower season for MA and business done, despite being more in line with usual trends then Q3 had been with early averages, the market did see a further slowdown quarter on quarter.
US maleic anhydride (MA) supply remained healthy for most of the quarter, with product available through the low season. However, the MA unit at INEOS Joliet was shut in mid-December following production issues, according to market sources. The exact reason for the shutdown and the expected time down were not known. In the meantime, margins came under pressure after spot butane costs steadily increased through the quarter.
Demand was soft in the fourth quarter caused by seasonality in the downstream unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) sector and poor performances from several sectors amid the global economic headwinds. US exports to Europe were healthy. The INEOS outage did not have a major impact as it took place near the yearend when activity was muted.
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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.
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