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China acetic acid soars to highest in a decade on tight supply
May 25, 2018

China's spot domestic acetic acid are at their highest in a decade and may remain firmly supported by tight supply, with produders exporting more volumes even amid a pick-up in local demands.

Unexpected shutdowns at major acetic acid plants in the US and Asia have heightened demand for Chinese material in April and May. Buying inquiries were coming from as far as South America. 

On 24 May, prices in east China surging by 19.3% over a four-week period. Prices were last seen at these levels in 2008.

China is a net exporter of acetic acid, with volumes in May expected to be a record 80,000-100,000 tonnes, as a major plant in the Asia has remained shut, market players said, and with spot prices in northeast Asia hitting record highs.

In March, it shipped out 51,960 tonnes of the material, more than double the volume in February.

In Singapore, Celanese's 600,000 tonnes/year plant has remained shut since on 23 April, with the restart expected in the first half of June.

In Taiwan, Changchun Petrochemical's(CCP) plant, also with a 600,000 tonne/year capacity, restarted in early May, after more than two weeks of outage due to mechanical issues.

In the US, BP declared force majecure on US acetic acid supply in May, due to production problems at Eastman Chemical's 600,000 tonne/year plant in Texas. BP sells acetic acid produced at plant.

Within China, supply is also tight due to a heavy turaround schedule in the second quarter, with output loss estimated at more than 240,000 tonnes.

The shortage was more pronounced in the northern region, where producers have been actively exporting material since April, amid a seasonal pick-up in domestic demand.

Demand from the purified terephthalic acid(PTA) sector, which accounts for around 21% of acetic acid consumption in China, has not weakened despite ongoing plant turnarounds.

In the downstream ethyl acetate(ETAC) market, producers have been hiking prices since end-April to cover the increased cost of feestock acetic acid, dampening demand.

Meanwhile, demand for derivative vinyl acetate monomer(VAM), which accounts for about 20% of acetic acid consumption, is expected to increase in June with the restart of Great Wall Energy and Chemical's 450,000 tonne/year plant in Ningxia in northwest China.

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