Trinidad melamine plant returns to production

06 December 2013 09:52 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

The melamine plant on the Caribbean island of Trinidad is back in operation following a prolonged outage after a turnaround of its feeder ammonia plant, sources familiar with the situation said on 25 November.

Word that the plant is running helped alleviate buyers’ worries of supply constraints for the first quarter of 2014 and the likelihood of accompanying price increases.

“It is good news for the market,” said a major US buyer. “Number one, the Chinese are not producing, or at least not too much because of gas curtailments there during their winter months. You never know how much or little they will produce in winter.”

The only US melamine plant, Cornerstone Chemical in Waggaman, Louisiana, plans a turnaround in Q1 2014, adding to worries of adequate supply in coming months.

The Methanol Holdings Trinidad Limited (MHTL) plant began a turnaround of its ammonia plant on 3 September to coincide with the latest natural gas curtailment on the island. At the time, customers of the melamine plant and others were told that the turnaround would last throughout September.

When the plant returned to production remains a question. But sources familiar with the situation, including a large customer, confirmed that they have been told that the plant is now back in operation.

The fate of the 60,000 tonne/year plant has been a topic of concern for North American market participants because the plant is one of only two in the Western Hemisphere. The other is a Cornerstone’s 75,000 tonne/year Louisiana plant.

Supply constraints caused by production problems in Europe, the US, the Middle East and Trinidad at various times throughout 2013 pushed prices up in North America. Prices went up every quarter until the fourth when US contracts settled at a rollover.

One buyer said that contract negotiations for the first quarter 2014 could extend into the year.

By Bill Bowen