The reliable and trustworthy ICIS Oxo-alcohols report is covered weekly in Asia, China, Europe and the US. All four regions have price assessments gathered by our locally-based reporters that focus on market movements on n-butanol, iso-butanol, 2-ethylhexanol and dioctyl phthalate.
Europe also has a spot quote for diisononyl phthalate (DINP). The commentary gives additional background information on the factors influencing prices, such as demand and supply, import/export data, graphs and feedstock movements. This invaluable tool can be used to support you in making those crucial commercial decisions.
Updated to Q2 2019
Supply for 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) and n-butanol (NBA) was generally stable in Asia. There was talk of Chinese-origin cargoes being available as domestic prices and demand in China fell. Some Chinese producers cut rates and at least one switched from 2-EH to NBA. Others took advantage of a weaker Chinese currency to try exporting to neighbouring countries, which put some pressure on the spot markets.
Demand for 2-EH was generally stable for the first two months of the quarter, but dipped around June as downstream dioctyl phthalate (DOP) producers decided to cut rates to reduce the impact of negative margins. Many were running at around 70% and that had a significant negative impact on demand and spot prices. Demand for NBA was sluggish for most of the quarter and the situation worsened towards its end.
Availability of all the oxo-alcohols – n-butanol (NBA), isobutanol (IBA) and 2-ethyl hexanol (2-EH) – was balanced during the second quarter. All European units were running to plan and the only scheduled maintenance commenced in mid-June for Grupa Azoty Zak in Poland for one month. Any other work that was carried out was considered insignificant and only lasting a few days, hence no official announcements were made.
Demand was reasonable for many, but not as strong as the same period in 2018. Consumption traditionally peaks in the second quarter, but global uncertainties, including Brexit and the US-China trade war, hampered customer confidence. The automotive industry has been particularly hard hit, but some areas of the construction industry were said to be fairly healthy.
Supply of US oxo-alcohols was balanced to ample during much of the second quarter, despite lingering logistics stress stemming from a late first-quarter Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire and two May-June turnarounds that prompted short-term oxo-alcohols sales controls by a third producer. Supply outpaced demand as downstream architectural and automobile coatings continued to slump on economic and weather-related headwinds.
Demand during the second quarter marginally improved for some market participants, but remained mostly tepid amid ongoing weather-related and economic headwinds that diminished usually strong seasonal demand for downstream architectural, industrial and automotive coatings, as well as plasticizers. Those markets remained mostly sluggish as volumes broadly failed to reach seasonal peaks expected during the second-quarter spring paint and coatings season. Two oxo-alcohols turnarounds in May-June had little effect on demand.
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The alcohols (NBA, IBA, and 2-EH) have some uses just as solvents, but are primarily used as feedstocks for other products.
The oxo-alcohols chain consists of n-butanol (NBA), isobutanol (IBA), and 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH). Around 50% of 2-EH is used to make plasticisers, mainly dioctyl phthalate (DOP).
DOP is a plasticiser, which is material used for plastic, typically polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to enhance its flexibility and malleability. Di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) is also a plasticiser.
NBA is a feedstock for butyl acrylate and methacrylate, butanol-based glycol ethers, butyl acetate (butac), and some plasticisers. IBA is used as a solvent for nitrocellulose, in hydraulic fluids, and as a resin modifier.
Key drivers for oxo-alcohols are the construction industry (home and commercial), the appliance industry, the automotive industry and industries that need imperial coating material.
In addition, the alcohols NBA, IBA, and 2-EH have some uses just as solvents.
Health risks include irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tracks when inhaled.
In Europe DOP has been re-labelled to a higher-risk category, featuring the skull and crossbones on packaging and machinery where it is used. DINP remains in the category below but is under investigation.