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 Q2 2019
In the first half of Q2, maleic anhydride (MA) supply was somewhat tight as some plants underwent maintenance shutdowns. In the second half, the MA market became severely oversupplied and most, if not all producers, had inventories that they were unable to offload. Tasco was out of the market for several months following a fire at its complex. Even though offers were lowered late in the quarter, supply levels remained high.
Demand for MA in southeast Asia was weak in Q2 due to lacklustre demand in the downstream unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) market. Sentiment was also bearish in the latter half of the quarter because of falling feedstock butane costs. Demand was somewhat better in other regions, such as the US, where some producers were able to channel their cargoes.
Several producers experienced production issues in Q2 which contributed to the sector’s bearish sentiment. Imports from the US and Asia eased the tightness felt in some parts of Europe, but the market was divided on the level of the tightness. Southern Europe saw an increase in lower-priced imports which brought about some bearishness.
Demand in Q2 was under par year on year and because the market saw subdued uptake from April to June – key months for the downstream resin producers. Some have argued that this was a fairly normal year and disappointment in the market was more to do with overheating seen in the past two years. The slowdown in the automotive sector, the Iran-US oil feud and the US-China trade war all weighed on sentiment in southern Europe, but less so in northwest Europe.
US maleic anhydride (MA) supply was steady as product was available during the peak season. There were no production issues. The transaction by INEOS Enterprises to acquire Ashland’s Composites division is pending, subject to regulatory approvals.
Demand into downstream unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) and other sectors was steady, but limited by underperformance in the construction and automotive sectors. Global economic uncertainty could have affected underlying sentiment. Feedstock butane costs reached a low last seen in January 2016 amid growing natural gas liquid (NGL) production and warmer weather reducing demand for home heating products.
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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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