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 Q3 2020
Spot availabilities in the region fell as China MA makers withdrew from the export market to focus on supplying robust domestic requirements. Output outside of China was also not optimised, with two plants, in South Korea and Indonesia, respectively, shut at different periods during the quarter for maintenance.
Demand picked up in Q3, especially in China where construction sector activities resumed in earnest after August as the hot summer weather receded and July floods also subsided. MA has heavy applications in the construction sector.
Supply was abundant in Q3 as influx from Asia was stable through the summer season. In July, one major producer struggled to ramp operating rates back up, with quasi-immediate repercussions on spot availability. The spot market tightened as one smaller producer which stopped in August for maintenance was delayed by a month in returning to the market, and another producer also grappled with achieving higher production rates.
Demand in July was still slow to return for a number of players. By August, the majority were nearing pre-coronavirus levels of offtake on contract. The spot market was reviving. By September, UPR manufacturers recorded higher demand year on year, beating market expectations. Demand is improving considerably across the construction sector as well as for the water coating, crosslinkers and refinish-paint applications going into the automotive sector.
MA supply and demand were more balanced in Q3 as the economy improved. Margins came under pressure as feedstock butane costs recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Ashland completed the sale of its MA unit to AOC Materials for $100m. Development progressed at Polynt-Reichhold’s new MA plant in Morris, Illinois, and its detailed engineering phase was launched in September.
Demand into UPRs rebounded from the lows seen in Q2, but the recovery was uneven. Conditions improved in the auto sector, although challenges remained. Growth was driven by the housing and construction sectors. Some downstream operations ran at below normal rates. Buyers were careful about placing orders as they did not want to build up too much inventory. Concerns mounted as coronavirus cases continued to rise in some parts of the country.
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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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