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 2019
In the first half of Q2, the supply of phthalic anhydride (PA) was very tight as many northeast Asian-based plants underwent turnarounds. A shortage in the upstream orthoxylene (OX) market also exacerbated PA tightness. In the second half of Q2, however, the supply situation saw a reversal as most of the turnarounds had been completed and the supply of OX eased.
In the first half of Q2, demand was strong driven by a pick up in general end-product demand. Cargoes from northeast and southeast Asia were channelled to India as demand was especially strong there. Demand in China did not see the same pick up as it had in southeast Asia and India. In the second half of Q2, demand waned as most buyers adopted a wait-and-see stance. On top of that, most buyers had overbought in the first half and were in no hurry to procure fresh cargoes.
Phthalic anhydride supply was tight during the first half of the quarter by prolonged shortness in feedstock orthoxylene (OX) due to a force majeure at BP’s Gelsenkirchen OX plant. As the raw material lengthened on regular imports, PA producers ramped up production as of mid-May. However, several producers in Europe kept reduced production rates to cope with heightened competition from aggressively priced imports.
Demand rose slightly in April but the uptake for May was weak. Downstream of PA polyols were steering a bit of momentum, compensating to a certain extent a very poor year for alkyd resins. A pick-up in demand of unsaturated and saturated polyester resins finally manifested itself after a hesitant start.
Phthalic anhydride (PA) supply levels held steady at a strong pace throughout the second quarter. While there was some volatility in the upstream mixed xylenes (MX) market toward the end of the quarter, this appeared to have little impact on PA inventories. In addition, there were no production issues reported for PA, despite the volatile MX market.
Demand for PA remained constant as no significant uptick due to construction or decrease due to a dim economic outlook were reported. PA has remained very steady since the start of the year. Despite the rise in MX spot prices, PA supplies remained sufficient, with no impact on demand.
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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.
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