HOUSTON (ICIS)--US Gulf acrylonitrile (ACN) spot prices have softened in the recent weeks on lower feedstock costs and a downward trend in overseas prices, sources said heading into the International Petrochemical Conference (IPC).
The average US ACN spot price plunged by about $150/tonne (7 cents/lb) between September and December before bottoming out at $1,615-1,680/tonne FOB (free on board) at the end of 2013.
Prices began steadily increasing, reaching a high of $1,890-1,940/tonne FOB in mid-February, mostly on the back of higher feedstock propylene costs and tightened ACN supply as a result of reduced operations and plant turnarounds.
However, demand had been mostly steady, and the recent decline in propylene costs had placed downward pressure on ACN prices.
Additionally, Asia is a major export destination for US ACN, and prices there had plunged on lower feedstock costs and weaker demand, causing US ACN prices to begin slipping as well.
While some producers kept offers high at above $1,900/tonne FOB, other suppliers and traders had been selling US material at $1,800-1,825/tonne FOB.
One producer said that falling spot prices could be a result of recent port congestion in the US Gulf, which delayed material from arriving to Asia and prompted buyers there to turn to domestic suppliers.
Meanwhile, some US ACN buyers had adopted a wait-and-see stance on expectations that feedstock costs for propylene would drop even further, putting downward pressure on ACN prices.
Still, one producer said that the lower reported deals were most likely desperate attempts to get rid of a large amount of material before the end of the quarter.
The producer said early April pricing should jump somewhat, now that other suppliers and traders have sold the material that they needed to before the end of the month.
Major North American producers of ACN include Ascend Performance Materials, Cornerstone, INEOS Nitriles and Unigel/Pemex.
Hosted by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the IPC runs 30 March through 1 April in San Antonio, Texas.
Follow Tracy on Twitter