Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) 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. Main uses for PVOH include textiles, adhesives, packaging films, thickeners and photosensitive coatings.
PVOH is also used in the manufacture of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), a resin that has strong adhesion, clarity and toughness properties. PVB is mainly used in laminated glass for automobiles and commercial buildings by providing the protective and transparent interlayer that is bonded between two panes of glass. It can also be used in coatings and inks.
VAM is consumed in the manufacture of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE). EVA, which has less than 50% vinyl acetate in content, is mainly used for films and wire and cable insulation. VAE, which contains more than 50% vinyl acetate, is primarily used as cement additives, paints and adhesives.
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. Polyvinyl formal is used for wire enamels and magnetic tape.
It is estimated that approximately 80% of global VAM production is used to make PVA and PVOH, with most of the remaining volume going to PVB, EVA copolymers and EVOH resins.
World growth for VAM is expected to be 4%/year with the strongest growth in Asia, particularly China.
In Europe, the economic slowdown has hit VAM consumption, notably in the paints and adhesives sectors and construction.
With most of the growth in Asia, capacity expansions are planned in the region and the Middle East.
In China, Sichuan Vinylon, a subsidiary of Sinopec, expects to complete a 300,000 tonne/year expansion at its VAM plant in Chongqing, southwestern China, in the first half of 2011.
GD Younglight Energy and Chemical group has a planned 300,000 tonne/year VAM facility, located at Ningxia Ningdong Energy and Chemical Base in the northwestern Ningxia province, expected to be completed by 2012.
In Saudi Arabia, Sipchem brought on stream its 330,000 tonne/year VAM project at Al-Jubail in 2009.
Other VAM projects being studied include two plants in Iran.
Updated: December 2010
Sources: INSIGHT: VAM tighter in Europe as demand creeps up, ICIS news; Plants and projects; Sichuan Vinylon Works to complete VAM expansion in H1 2011, ICIS news.