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.
Market news and analysis includes an overview, regional updates, upstream information and graphs. This vital tool is essential for market players keeping abreast of price movements allowing key decisions to be made.
Updated to Q3 2019
Supply expanded in early Q3 as regional plants returned to fuller operations following completion of turnarounds in Q2. But as demand faltered, an overhang developed and regional producers took to cutting output in late Q3, to minimise excessive supplies. Some plants were heard operating at barely half of their nameplate capacity. Shortage of feedstock orthoxylene in late Q3 also crimped production.
PA demand was structurally soft across Asia throughout the quarter, suppressed by lacklustre economic performance. The escalation of US-China trade tensions also put industries like automobiles and construction under duress, and these are major outlets for unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) which are produced from PA.
Q3 saw a decrease of imports from Asia, which eased some of the pressure seen in Q2 on prices throughout the quarter. Supply remained lengthy until the end of September when a series of planned maintenances started tightening both liquid and flake supply.
Q3 saw a disappointing month of peak season in July. August demand was considered as a bleak month for most market participants with very sporadic trade noticed. Although the month of August is traditionally a trough in demand trends, September was equally as disappointing as July bringing very slim comfort to UPR producers downstream of PA. Alkid resins were particularly hard-struck by declining demand, pushing several producers to cut down production rates.
Supply was steady in the third quarter despite some upstream volatility in the mixed xylenes (MX) market. This appeared to have little impact on PA inventories. In addition, there were no production issues in the PA market.
Demand for PA fell as summer drew to an end and there was no significant uptick in demand from the construction season. A dim economic outlook also weighed on the market. PA has remained steady since the start of the year, despite the volatile MX market.
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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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