The price of acrylonitrile, a petrochemical used in the production of plastics, synthetic rubber and acrylic fibers, has surged 30% over the past two months. Sources said the price rise is mainly due to plant shutdowns in China and the lack of imported deepsea cargoes from the US. But have prices already peaked? S&P Global Platts petrochemicals associate editor Pamela Sumayao examines the market.
Welcome to the Snapshot, an S&P Global Platts series examining the forces shaping and driving global commodity markets today.
In this episode we will examine the price movement of petrochemical acrylonitile, which has surged in recent weeks. ACN is mainly used for the production of plastics, synthetic rubber and acrylic fibers.
ACN prices hit close to a 3-year high at $1,900/mt CFR Far East Asia when it was last assessed on October 3. The last time prices were any higher was way back in November 18, 2014 when prices were seen at $1,910.
The accelerated speed at which prices have risen was something that market participants did not expect. We’re looking at a jump of over $400/mt or a 30% increase in just the past two months.
Two main factors boosted acrylonitrile's gains: plant shutdowns in China as well as a lack of imported deepsea cargoes from the US.
China's Sinopec’s Qilu shut its 80,000 mt/year acrylonitrile plant mid-July, according to sources, on environmental issues. Sources do not expect it to restart in the near-term.
Now, the already tight market in China was all the more pressured in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in the US. This saw two major companies -- Ascend Performance Materials and Ineos Nitriles -- shutting down and declaring force majeure on Acrylonitrile from their Texas plants.
Both plants have restarted their units, but they have not officially lifted their force majeure yet as they are still building inventories.
Ineos, with its 545,000 metric tons per year ACN plant at Greenlake, is seen to have a greater impact on the Asian region as a key term supplier to Asia.
Moving forward, one major producer said that the uptrend in Asian prices is expected to continue but the pace of increase will start to slow down. Buyers are cautious especially on news that Ineos unit at Green Lake has restarted end of September. Cargoes take two months to reach Asian shores.
Meanwhile, demand from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene has been robust and supportive of ACN prices. ABS makers have been enjoying margins of up to $300/mt levels amid very good demand especially for air-conditioners.
On October 9, the East China acrylonitrile price discussions were heard at 16,300 to 16,400 yuan/mt. On average, that works out to $2,044/mt on an import parity basis, still higher than our latest assessment at $1,900.
Until next time on the Snapshot, we’ll keep an eye on the markets.