Published May 2018
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 2017 accounted for around 30% of world acetic acid demand. Acetic acid demand for VAM will increase during 2017–22, in line with growth in VAM production. Growth in acetic acid demand is significant for vinyl acetate and is much higher than that observed in 2012–17.
Sales in the primary end-use markets for vinyl acetate—paints, adhesives, textiles, and safety glass sheet for automotive and architectural applications—depend on the performance of the general economy.
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 market-entry barriers 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 the INEOS plant in Hull, United Kingdom and the Celanese plant in Tarragona, Spain ceased operations in late 2013.
Consumption of vinyl acetate is driven largely by its use in polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol, the largest end-use markets, accounting for 35% and 37% of total consumption, respectively, in 2017. Growth in consumption of vinyl acetate for polyvinyl acetate is expected to be more robust from 2017 to 2022 after a slight average annual decline during 2012–17. Demand for polyvinyl alcohol will follow the same trend, and is expected to be 12% higher in 2020 than in 2015.
Most applications for vinyl acetate are mature. The strongest growth areas are ethylene–vinyl acetate (EVA) and vinyl acetate–ethylene (VAE) copolymers. 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.
The vinyl acetate consumption pattern varies by world region. In North America and Western Europe, polyvinyl acetates account for over half of consumption. In Japan and China, the major end use is for polyvinyl alcohol, which is obtained via further processing of polyvinyl acetate.
Northeast Asia, led by China, continues to have the largest demand for VAM in the world, with over 49% of total demand in 2017. China alone represented 31% of total global demand that year and will reach an estimated 34% by 2022. China will continue to lead global demand for vinyl acetate at an above-average annual growth rate from 2017 to 2022, with continued strong demand in polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol. Demand for VAM in ethylene–vinyl acetate continues to grow in China.
Other countries in Northeast Asia, such as Taiwan and Japan, will exhibit moderate growth while demand in South Korea is expected to decline slightly. Japanese VAM demand is forecast to slow even further in the next five years compared with the growth rate during 2012–17. Consumption in Southeast Asia will grow at an average annual rate of 3.5% in the next five years, driven by demand in Singapore and Thailand.
Overall growth in vinyl acetate consumption during 2017–22 will be driven by demand in China and the United States, at an average annual rate of about 2.5%.