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 2020
Q1 saw supply disruptions from China due to logistics constraints and delays in the return of workers from the extended Lunar New Year holidays and coronavirus outbreak containment measures. February shipments of VAM from China bound for southeast Asia and south Asia could not be fulfilled on time, prompting buyers to secure cargoes from other sources. Celanese also experienced shipment delays following a fire incident on 7 February at its Singapore production site.
Demand towards the end of Q1 came under pressure from bearish sentiment in view of steady-to-soft ethylene feedstock values, the plunge in crude oil values and escalating coronavirus pandemic. Buyers across Asia postponed their purchases as they were inclined to preserve their existing feedstock inventories as the crude oil plunge and the coronavirus pandemic triggered a slowdown in derivatives export sales.
The production problems affecting two US vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plants in late 2019 and at the beginning of 2020 were resolved in the early part of the first quarter. However, this does not appear to have resulted in a significant increase in supply to the European market. The EU quota for duty-free imports in the first three months of this year was reduced by approximately 50,000 tonnes less than in the same period of 2019.
The first three months of 2020 were mixed for demand. Initially, there was restocking and underlying demand was quite healthy. On the other hand, the coronavirus (Covid-19) has had some effect in dampening demand in industrial sectors. Food packaging and DIY applications have continued to fare reasonably well.
Both planned and unplanned production issues at separate plants have plagued the US vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) market, causing supplies to become very tight into the beginning of 2020. Q1 did see some supply restoration, eventually taking on a more balanced picture. Delays were seen in the US with carriers surrounding coronavirus precautions – specifically trucking, where more stringent hygiene standards implemented and causing supply delays.
As a result of the coronavirus, increased demand was noted in Q1 for Mexico and Latin America, which some said this increased buying could be a bit of pre-buying to get ahead of what is to come. Much of the US VAM market is used for export material. Exports of US VAM were steadily increasing at the start of Q1 as supplies became more available to meet global demand.
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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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