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 Q4 2020
MA supply tightened from mid-November, as a number of regional plants started to shut for annual maintenance. However, export availability from China started to climb towards the end of the year, with China MA makers seeking to move cargoes overseas to make up for slowing sales locally.
MA demand rose in the quarter, supported by steady and robust recovery in downstream sectors like construction and automotive in various key regional outets, from China to India. Besides actively buying MA to drive ongoing production, some buyers also scrambled to secure more cargoes to replenish and rebuild inventories to healthier levels.
European MA supply has seen tightness settle in since September due to a demand surge in Europe and domestic producers’ failure to ramp operating rates back to full speed. This was compounded by significantly curtailed imports from Asia. Imports were cut significantly as China and India’s construction, automotive and electronics sectors revived, absorbing much of the global MA production.
Demand increased from a strong Q3 into an exceptional Q4. Many, however, put it in perspective with the dire Q2 demand and say they have not recovered their losses entirely. Demand from the construction sector has been supported with ambitious infrastructure plans and some government schemes. The automotive sector also contributed to the higher demand, while packaging, pharmaceutical, paper coating applications and some water treatment have seen stable demand from Q3.
US MA supply and demand were balanced as the economy continued to recover. Interest was heard for imports, but players had to contend with constrained and delayed overseas availability, along with raw material and freight inflation. Margins came under pressure as feedstock butane costs reached a high last seen in February 2019.
Positive momentum in the auto and construction sectors carried over into Q4. There was also a faster than expected recovery in durable goods demand. Buyers were restocking product after carrying lean inventory and working it off. Requests for material were healthy, as demand was recovering and the growth outlook was more positive.
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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.