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 Q1 2021
Supply in the region was steadily lengthening at the start of the quarter, but showed signs of tightening from Asian sellers outside of China by the end. In March, a Thai plant shut for a two-week turnaround. The supply in the spot market was at times impacted by the presence of Chinese cargoes. Run rates at some Chinese plasticizer plants were cut in a bid to reduce feedstock costs, which led to more April-loading cargoes available for exports.
Demand was generally stable and took direction from spot prices. Buyers typically adopted a wait-and-see stance when prices were higher and would only buy in small volumes on a need-to basis during a price uptrend. In China, demand was soft in early March, prompting exports. By the end of the quarter, Asian buyers were on a wait-and-see stance.
A prolonged outage at a European producer continued in Q1, while a separate major producer shut for two months of maintenance. Imports from Asia were significantly lower due to logistical issues and strong domestic demand. Extreme cold weather further hampered transportation in February and March, delaying the deliveries of raw material and PA. The tight supply of OX and naphthalene has also hampered the spot availability of PA.
Demand continued to be strong due to the ramp up of auto production and construction activity. UPR consumption has increased, but some participants suspect that the higher orders are also due to a fear of a shortage to come on a lack of imports and the prolonged shutdown and limited availability. The pull from plasticizers is slightly lower due to force majeures.
Although PA production continued without disruption following the polar storm that hit the US Gulf Coast, supply tightened amid a drop in imports and stocking ahead of a turnaround planned to take place in May. US January PA imports were nearly 50% lower year on year – reaching their lowest point in five years – as a result of overseas production issues as well as high freight rates and limited vessel availability.
Supply of complementary commodities such as 2-EH was extremely tight, limiting demand for PA to make plasticizers. Although overall demand remained at low levels – due to both reduced automotive production as well as seasonal factors – reduced imports caused higher-than-expected demand for domestic flake PA.
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.