In each issue of FreeFlow magazine, our business leaders from around the world share their insights into the global methacrylates markets.

Here, Jay Smith, USA Monomers Business Director, offers his latest views and analysis (as of May 2020).

What is your view of the demand level for methacrylates and projections for the future?

Global and regional demand has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 which is to be expected with widespread government order to stay at home and many businesses shut down. The US segment most impacted has been the automotive industry. A segment that is seeing a short-term positive demand influx is the acrylic sheet producers.

In the US, there is a need for protective safety shields between merchant clerks and customers to help prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, there is a short-term increase in demand for acrylic sheet. Another large MMA segment is architectural coatings. The latest sales information states that approximately 30% of those ordered to stay at home are using the time to progress home improvement projects such as painting interior and exterior of their homes. This effect is helping the coatings demand to survive but the longer-term impact is that coatings will be impacted negatively through the year.

The remainder of the year is unclear, but most economists are expecting the remainder of 2020 to be well below 2019 demand metrics. Economists believe that it could be through 2022 before the market returns to normalized growth pre-COVID-19.

Can you explain what LI is doing to support customers in North America in the short and also the longer term?

There is a global mantra that states, “We are in this together.” This saying is correct as we are all managing through the difficult environment created by the pandemic. In the US, we are taking the opportunity to continue to feed our supply chain and to improve our service levels through efficiencies in logistics as well as internal tools that will improve our capability to serve our customer base over the short and long term. We continue to take every opportunity to improve our manufacturing reliability as well to give our customer base the best opportunities for success.

There was an announcement recently of the intention to build an “Alpha 3” MMA plant in the US. What can you say about this?

We are very excited about the Alpha 3 project and our ability to improve the capability of MMA supply to the Americas Region and as a contribution to the Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) global asset network.

The Alpha technology will improve the long-term cost base and the production reliability for MMA. We are expecting to hear further details announced such as site location, etc. in the next few months as the project is being progressed with pace. The next decade will be quite exciting with greater MCC advances in expanding Alpha MMA production.