OUTLOOK ’14: US solvents could see roller coaster of activity

26 December 2013 15:00 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The first quarter could bring mixed results for solvents in the US petrochemicals markets.

While propylene-driven petrochemicals such as isopropanol alcohol (IPA) and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) could see price increases based on higher raw materials costs, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) prices could remain flat to soft.

“Right now, I’m seeing MEK being flat [for the first quarter],” a source said. “I’ve talked to some producers, and there’s a chance MEK could go down in January. At the very least, prices will likely stay where they are right now.”

In some Asian spot MEK markets, prices have dropped several cents in recent months. Such movement could prompt Asian producers to sell more MEK to other regions.

 “I think Asia is going to come on stronger in the first quarter here and become more competitive in the US market,” one source said. “That’s going to keep prices flat.”

In the MIBK market, several US producers are seeking 8 cent/lb ($176/tonne, €129/tonne) price hikes for 1 January. 

Sources indicated that, while the full 8 cents likely will not be implemented, an increase of 4 cents could gain traction.

Producers could then wait until February or March to ask for another 4 cents, sources said.

MIBK producers are also keeping an eye on truck acetone contract prices, which appear poised for increases. Several acetone price increase nominations were made for December, in the range of 4-10 cents/lb. Acetone is an MIBK feedstock.

In the IPA markets, several price increase nominations were made for 1 January. Most producers are seeking an 8 cent/lb hike.

Like MIBK, many doubted that the full 8 cents would go through, and speculated that producers would likely split the difference, with a 4 cent hike in January, and another 4 cent hike in February or March.

($1 = €0.73)

US solvents could see roller coaster of activity

By Andrew Guy Jr