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 Q2 2020
Supply remained squeezed in the quarter, with a plant in southeast Asia shut almost throughout the entire period on coronavirus quarantine grounds. Elsewhere in the region, although a number of plants that underwent maintenance in Q1 resumed normal operations in Q2, most of them held back active spot sales to focus first on rebuilding low stock inventories.
Demand was tepid, firstly due to ramifications from coronavirus-induced lockdowns across Asia. Even after many of these restrictions were eased towards the end of Q2, downstream production in the region still did not recover as well and smoothly as expected. This in turn hampered the consumption of raw materials including MA.
April saw the height of tight supply due to imported product running dry at traders as the arbitrage window to Asia was only reopening and product from there was struggling to find a home on ships out of Asian ports. Equally ships which had arrived in Europe in March were struggling to exit ports. Meanwhile stockpiling at manufacturers downstream was still heard as the pandemic’s peak period was still uncertain in April-May. In mid-June and July, the trend reversed as Asian ships reached shore.
Demand was stronger in April on continued stockpiling amid pandemic-induced lockdowns. By the end of month however the market started stabilising as inventory levels were starting to fill up and by mid-May some buyers started postponing and cancelling orders as their demand decreased on forced shutdowns or lack of business. As some countries exited lockdowns, demand did not pick up immediately due to high inventories, especially at car manufacturers, a key outlet for MA. June saw meagre improvements.
US MA saw length in supply amid lower levels of demand. Suppliers were heard to be offering product at competitive prices, but it was challenging as buyers were carefully managing inventory. Margins widened in the first half of Q2 amid record low feedstock butane costs, exerting downward price pressure. The situation reversed itself in the second half of Q2 as butane recovered amid stronger crude values.
Demand fell as auto production and non-essential construction shut down during April and May due to the pandemic. As a result, the downstream UPR sector took a hit, reducing consumption of MA into coatings. June did see economic activity resume as restrictions were lifted, with production in the auto and construction sectors slowly ramping back up.
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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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