Acrylonitrile shortage

China still imports a considerable amount of acrylonitrile in order to produce acrylonitrile downstream commodities such as ABS, polyacrylonitrile and nitrile elastomer.
The global demand for acrylonitrile has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, and the Asia-Pacific region accounted for a 73% share of this demand in 2011, dominating the market.
Production in China benefits from the advantage of very low operating costs, and this draw is expected to continue to drive demand in the coming years. As a result, there is huge scope for acrylonitrile capacity additions in China, which would help to shake off its reliance on foreign sources. However, feedstock changes in the US are putting the worldwide production of acrylonitrile at risk, threatening China’s influx of acrylonitrile imports. This shortage is spurring on efforts to discover new ways of cracking natural gases. Propylene is the main feedstock used for acrylonitrile production. However, over the last few years, the increased use of shale gas in some regions within cracking plants has changed the dynamics of the industry. The feedstock currently used in cracking provides a higher ethylene content product mixture, resulting in a corresponding decrease in propylene supply. All over the world, producers are working on separate technology to produce propylene, which may provide comparable or even cheaper propylene than that produced traditionally as a byproduct during the cracking of ethylene. Unfortunately, to date, there has been no breakthrough, and until new technologies are fully implemented there is likely to be a shortage of feedstock for acrylonitrile in the future.
In 2000, global acrylonitrile demand stood at 4,427,469 tons, before increasing to 4,696,141 tons in 2011. Global demand for acrylonitrile is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.1% between 2011 and 2020, to reach 6,757,081 tons in 2020.

Source: Acrylonitrile Global Market to 2020– Household appliances and Electronics Sector to Drive Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Growth, Polymeric Applications Propel Polyacrylonitrile Demand from Asia-Pacific; GBI Research, 2012.