Recently, the National Acetic Anhydride Industry Collaboration Group hosted the 2023 Acetic Acid Industry Annual Meeting. Experts at the meeting believed that due to the lack of domestic demand, some acetic acid chemical companies are difficult to operate, there are more risks in key areas, and the external environment is complex and severe. Therefore, in the next 3 to 5 years, there will be a large industry adjustment of domestic acetic acid industry, and it is expected that the supply structure will be greatly adjusted.
Acetic acid is a kind of ester with functional group -COOR, which can undergo common ester reactions such as alcoholysis, ammonolysis, transesterification and reduction. The appearance of acetic acid is colorless and clear liquid, with good solubility, fast drying, water absorption, volatility, etc., is an important organic chemical raw materials and industrial solvents, widely used in medicine, paint, ink, adhesive, textile and daily flavor and other fields. As an important chemical raw material intermediate, acetic acid covers a wide range of downstream areas and is mainly used to produce compounds such as PTA, vinyl acetate, acetate, acetic anhydride and chloroacetic acid.
Since the 21st century, with the rapid development of the domestic economy, China’s acetic acid market demand has been continuously released, and production capacity has continued to expand, promoting the continuous expansion of the industry scale. But at the same time, the phenomenon of excess capacity of acetic acid in China has gradually emerged. After 2016, with the increasingly strict environmental regulation and the deepening of supply-side structural reform, backward production capacity of acetic acid was gradually eliminated by the market, and the market supply and demand situation improved.
According to the statistics of the National Acetic Anhydride Industry Collaboration Group, the domestic acetic acid production capacity in 2020 and 2021 was 9.27 million tons and 9.97 million tons, respectively, and the annual output will be 7.9 million tons and 8.619 million tons, respectively. In 2022, the domestic acetic acid production capacity is 10.43 million tons, and the output is 9.405 million tons, an increase of 786,000 tons, the operating rate of the industry was 90.2% in 2022, up 0.9% year-on-year. East China and North China are still the main producing areas, and South China has directly jumped from the last place to the third largest producing area due to the second-phase production of Guangxi Huayi Energy and Chemical Co., Ltd. The increase in production in Northwest China and Southwest China is mainly due to the gradual release of capacity increased by the technological reform of some installations in 2021 in 2022, and the cost advantage of natural gas sources in Southwest China for a period of time.
Hu Zonggui, chairman of the National Acetic Anhydride Industry Cooperation Group and chairman of SOPO Group, believes that some acetic acid chemical companies in China are difficult to operate this year, there are more risks in key areas, and the external environment is complex and severe. Under this influence, the domestic acetic acid companies will have a large industry adjustment in the future, there are plans to build new acetic acid plants in China with approximately 8.35 million tons, acetic acid products or overcapacity again. Since last year, the acetic acid industry has endured the pain of falling prices under the influence of supply and demand fluctuations.
Hu believes that in the short term, factors such as rising international oil and natural gas prices, aging equipment in Europe and the United States, and a lack of new production capacity in Europe and the United States will benefit the export trade of acetic acid chemical companies. Data from China’s chemical industry platform “echemi.com” shows that the current export price and export volume of various types of acetic acid products such as industrial grade, food grade, pharmaceutical grade, etc. are trending steadily.
But in the long run, there are many uncontrollable factors such as international oil prices and natural gas prices. Therefore, if the acetic acid industry wants to achieve high-quality development, it should still focus on enhancing endogenous power. In recent years, the development and utilization of acetic acid to ethanol, acetic acid to acetonitrile, acetic acid to butyronitrile, acetic acid to produce caprolactam and other processes will continue to enhance the endogenous power of acetic acid chemical companies.