HOUSTON (ICIS)--Facing the 12th monthly increase in the past 13 months, and with prices already at an all-time high, buyers of US methyl methacrylate (MMA) have little room to push back as supply remains tight and demand is seasonally strong.
“I think we are going to keep seeing increases every month,” a buyer said last week, adding that it expects the increases to have some support, but that producers were unlikely to see the entire amount.
US MMA prices are at 171-181 cents/lb ($3,770-3,990/tonne) on US rail and 173-183 cents/lb for US tank truck.
The tight supply situation, largely attributed to Lucite International being on force majeure (FM) for most of 2017, is likely to extend into 2019, even with capacity utilisation high.
Lucite has 33% of US MMA capacity with its two 155,000 tonne/year facilities – one in Memphis, Tennessee and the other in Beaumont, Texas. Both operated under force majeure from January 2017 to November 2017.
Global turnarounds during the first half of 2018 kept supply tight, and another force majeure at Lucite’s plant in the UK following a planned maintenance further stressed the situation. The UK plant ended the force majeure, but remains on 100% sales control.
Supply is certain to remain tight for the rest of the year. US producers Lucite and Evonik are currently on sales control – Evonik because of an issue with raw material supply that has since been addressed, and Lucite to protect its customers.
Lucite has a planned maintenance set for its plant in Beaumont in the fall, and Evonik is running its Fortier plant at a reduced rate, due to continued raw material supply issues. Output was reduced at the facility on 28 June, until further notice.
Demand is expected to remain strong throughout the third quarter of 2018, even as coatings season nears an end, supported by a strong US economy. Demand remains high in plastics, as well as paints. Many of the paint manufacturers are turning to more acrylic formulations.
Producers are turning away requests for increased volume from existing customers, and also getting inquiries from new customers.
US MMA producers have also seen an increase in raw material costs that supports the higher prices.
US June barge acetone contracts fully settled during the week ended 29 June at an increase of 5.1%, on higher feedstock costs.
US MMA producers include Arkema, DowDuPont, Evonik and Lucite.
Focus article by Adam Yanelli