Our ICIS vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) reports are published weekly in Asia, Europe and the US and provide the reader with up-to-date, independent pricing information compiled by our locally-based reporters. Spot assessments are reported in all regions, while contracts only apply to Europe and the US.
The market intelligence of news and analysis provides the reader with the tools required to carry out informed business actions. Market commentary includes details of business taking place, regional overviews, upstream movements, production data and demand/supply patterns.
Updated to Q1 2021
Global supply tightened after four US Gulf-based VAM producers shut for four weeks due to the winter storm in late February, leading to force majeure declarations on VAM supplies. This occurred ahead of a heavy plant turnaround season in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China. China’s export volumes in the first two months fell to 1,362 tonnes, down by almost 95% year on year.
Demand was mixed with stock replenishments in India, southeast Asia amid buoyant demand in China. Demand from the downstream EVA sector in northeast Asia held steady amid elevated margins. China imported 59,676 tonnes of VAM in the first two months, a 48% increase year on year. But record high prices of VAM and other affiliated feedstocks such as ACN curtailed operating rates in the downstream acrylic fibre sector in India and southeast Asia.
Supply tightness of VAM in Europe was exacerbated by the shutdown of most chemical sites in the US Gulf in mid-February, after the region was struck by a polar storm. As Europe imports most of its VAM from the US and, to a lesser extent, Asia, the availability of material was very constrained. Several major suppliers put European customers on allocation, reducing the volumes delivered in March contracts and to the spot market.
Demand for VAM remained robust during Q1. Complaints from buyers due to the reduced volumes offered by suppliers rose from mid-Q1 onwards, making many customers look for additional material in the spot market. Sellers struggled to assess to what extent the strong buying interest was down to real downstream demand or panic buying. A few players reported a slight slowdown in demand from the packaging industry and construction in Q1, compared with previous years.
The freezing temperatures that hit Texas in February caused all four US VAM producers to shut down, and while each are in varying stages of restarting and ramping up to full rates, supplies remain quite limited. Much US supply is exported and the closures have left Asia to fill the supply gap, with some regions not expecting to see shipments from the US until May, particularly in Europe.
Before the winter storm shut production in February, VAM demand remained steady with home construction projects, and the packaging and adhesives market consistently stronger. But year-on-year, exports have tapered as overall global demand is seen as weaker. Much of the US VAM market is used for export material into Mexico, South America and Europe.
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Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) is used in water-based paints, adhesives, acrylic fibres, paper coatings and non-woven binder applications.
Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) is a colourless, volatile, flammable mobile liquid, with characteristic sweet etheral odour. Vinyl acetate is a dangerous fire and explosion hazard because it will polymerise violently when exposed to heat.
It is a key intermediate used in the making of a number of polymers and resins for adhesives, coatings, paints, films, textiles and other end-products.
The largest derivative is polyvinyl acetate (PVA) which is mainly used in adhesives as it has good adhesion properties to a number of substrates including paper, wood, plastic films and metals. Other uses for PVA include paper coatings, paints and industrial coatings.
The second largest consumer of VAM is polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) which is manufactured from PVA.
VAM is consumed in the manufacture of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE).
A fast growing use of VAM is the manufacture of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) which is used as a barrier resin in food packaging, plastic bottles and gasoline tanks, and in engineering polymers.
Other VAM derivatives include vinyl chloride-vinyl acetate copolymers which have major applications in coatings, paints and adhesives.
VAM is usually produced by the catalysed, vapour phase reaction of acetic acid with ethylene and oxygen in a fixed bed tubular reactor using a supported noble metal catalyst. The VAM is recovered by condensation and scrubbing and purified by distillation.
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