Published September 2016
Vinyl acetate (VAM) is a colorless, flammable, volatile liquid with a boiling point of 72–73°C. Practically all use is as a vinyl monomer to produce polyvinyl acetate homopolymers and copolymers. The homo- and copolymers are often further reacted to produce derivatives such as polyvinyl alcohol and ethylene–vinyl alcohol (EVOH).
Vinyl acetate is the largest end use for acetic acid and in 2015 accounted for around 30% of world acetic acid demand. Acetic acid demand for VAM will increase at an average annual rate of 3.4% from 2015 to 2020, in line with the growth in VAM production. Growth in acetic acid demand is significant for vinyl acetate and is much higher than observed from 2010 to 2015.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of vinyl acetate:
The vinyl acetate industry is an oligopoly, that is, a market with a limited number of producers, because of the high barriers to market entry of high capital costs and limited process technologies.
Globalization continues, with production capacity being added in China. VAM demand is consolidating and has shifted to China and other Asian countries, although the United States and Western Europe remain large mature markets.
The vinyl acetate market is oversupplied in all major regions except Western Europe, where capacity closures in late 2013 resulted in increasing reliance on imports. The VAM market is at continued high risk for consolidation, as local producers must compete with imports from the Middle East and China; several plants have shut down or been idled in Brazil, Mexico, and Western Europe in recent years. Western Europe has become a significant importer, and this trend will continue, as two plants (INEOS in Hull, United Kingdom and Celanese in Tarragona, Spain) ceased operations in late 2013.
Consumption of vinyl acetate is driven largely by its use in polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol, estimated at 36% and 38% of total consumption, respectively, in 2015. Growth in the consumption of VAM for polyvinyl acetate is expected to be more robust from 2015 to 2020 after a slight average annual decline of 0.6% during 2010–15. Demand for polyvinyl alcohol will follow the same trend, and is expected be 12% higher in 2020 than in 2015. Demand for vinyl acetate in ethylene–vinyl acetate (EVA) and vinyl acetate–ethylene (VAE) is increasing more rapidly.
Most applications for vinyl acetate are mature. Polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol are the largest end-use markets. The strongest growth areas are EVA copolymers, EVOH, and VAE. EVOH is a small-volume product, consumed mainly in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. Other applications for vinyl acetate include polyvinyl butyral (PVB); PVB use is growing in laminated safety glass for automotive, architectural, and commercial applications.
China will continue to lead the demand for vinyl acetate at an above-average annual growth rate from 2015 to 2020, with continued strong demand in polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol. Demand for VAM in ethylene–vinyl acetate is also growing well in China.
The United States will continue to be the largest exporter of VAM, and by 2020 will account for 31% of global exports. The Middle East and Taiwan will be the second- and third-largest exporters by 2020. The major capacity additions during the forecast period will be taking place in Northeast Asia (primarily China).
Overall growth in vinyl acetate consumption during 2015–20 will be driven by demand in China and the United States. VAM consumption in China is forecast to increase at about 4% per year during 2015–20, while the US forecast is for 2.5% average annual growth. VAM consumption in the mature markets in Western Europe and Japan is expected to increase only very slightly or even decline slightly. Consumption in Southeast Asia will grow at an average annual rate of 5.8% in the next five years, driven by demand in the large bases of Singapore and Thailand.