The ICIS Phthalic anhydride reports will keep you informed and up-to-date with market movements in Asia, Europe and the US. Our network of locally-based reporters publish weekly price assessments for spot and contract, depending on the region.
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Updated to Q2 2020
Spot availabilities were severely squeezed, as cumulatively more than 70,000 tonnes of output were lost in a heavy wave of scheduled and unplanned plant shutdowns between April and May. But the supply shortage situation started to ease towards the end of Q2, as more production units were restarted after the completion of maintenance or coronavirus-related shutdowns.
Demand rebounded midway in Q2, underpinned essentially by robust post-coronavirus requirements in China. PA imports into China rose consistently during Q2, even hitting record-high levels in May and June. But relative to China, PA consumption in other regional outlets remained more subdued, in part because their coronavirus lockdowns were eased much later into the quarter than China.
European PA continued to re-balance in April as pandemic-induced lockdowns encouraged buyers to stockpile, especially as the first wave of movement restrictions resulted in logistics problems. Market conversation focused on OPEC+ negotiations on crude oil cuts brought about by the demand slump in Asia. By May, most producers were running at 50- 60%, adjusting production rates to the halt in demand.
March closures at car manufactures and the forced suspension of construction activity in Italy, France, Spain and central Europe in April translated into shutdowns at manufacturers dowstream of plasticizers and in the paints and coatings industry, which affected PA demand. In April, PA buyers spoke of a 20-40% demand slump compared to Q1. The worst hit saw a small improvement in June, but most were working through inventories and producing on confirmed orders only.
PA supply was sufficient to meet demand, which started strong in March but quickly deteriorated amid coronavirus-related lockdowns. Producers previously stocked up on feedstock and have plentiful supply to last through the shutdowns along the Illinois river – the main delivery route for OX – starting in July.
Construction projects were largely postponed or cancelled and automotive production halted for two months, limiting demand for PA into plasticizers. End-use PVC production rates were ultimately lowered, although export demand recovered more quickly than domestic. End-use paint and coatings were mixed, as industrial uses were significantly reduced but purchases for DIY applications flourished.
We offer the following regional Phthalic anhydride analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Phthalic anhydride marketplace.
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Over half the production of phthalic anhydride is used in the manufacture of phthalate esters, employed as plasticisers in PVC. Other major uses are in polyester resins and (decreasingly) in alkyd resins.
Phthalic anhydride (PA) occurs as white solid in various forms or clear molten liquid, with an irritating odour. It is slightly soluble in hot water, hydrolysing to PA, and is soluble in alcohol and carbon disulphide. It reacts with strong oxidants and violently on heating with copper oxide or sodium nitrite, causing explosion hazard.
The major outlet for PA, accounting for just over half of production, is in the manufacture of phthalate plasticisers, the main product being dioctyl phthalate (DOP) which is used as a plasticiser in polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
The second largest outlet is in unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) which are usually blended with glass fibres to produce fibreglass-reinforced plastics. Principal markets are construction, marine and transportation.
The third largest outlet is PA-based alkyd resins, which are used in solvent-based coatings for architectural, machinery, furniture and fixture applications.
Small volume uses for PA include the manufacture of dyes and pigments, detergents, herbicides and insecticides, fire retardants, saccharin and polyester resin cross-linking agents.