Chemical Profile: Toluene

03 April 2006 00:00  [Source: ICB Americas]


2004: 1,921 million gallons; 2005: 1,905 million gallons; 2009: 2,022 million gallons, projected. Demand equals production plus imports (2004: 399 million gallons; 2005: 436 million gallons) less exports (2004: 138 million gallons; 2005: 256 million gallons).


Historical (2000–2005): 0% per year. Future: 1.5% per year through 2003. Demand growth for the 2000–2005 period appears flat because of an exceptionally strong base year in 2000.


Historical (2000–2005): High, $3.21 per gallon, nitration, Gulf, barges, spot; low, $0.65, same basis. Current: $2.25 to $2.38, same basis.




Benzene and xylenes by toluene hydrodealkylation (HAD) and toluene disproportionation (TDP), 76%; solvents, 7%; toluene diisocyanate (TDI), 7%; back blending into gasoline, 6%; miscellaneous chemical uses (including benzoic acid, benzyl chloride, benzaldehyde, and toluene sulfonic acid), 4%.


Most toluene produced (6.3 to 6.6 billion gallons) in the U.S. is not isolated from refinery streams but blended into the gasoline pool where it is used as an octane booster. Thus toluene’s price is driven by the price of gasoline. Toluene prices set a new record high last September, $3.21, due to tight supply, strong demand, and the historically high gasoline price. Since then, the gasoline price has come down and toluene is currently trading in the range of $2.25 to $2.38.

Other factors conspire to support high toluene prices, including strong demand from benzene producers and the switch from methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) to ethanol as an oxygenate in several states. Because ethanol produces a fuel with a higher vapor pressure than does MTBE, and toluene in the blend lowers the vapor pressure, toluene is a premium blendstock, which increases demand for toluene as an octane booster.

The amount of recovered toluene for back-blending has been declining for some years now, because refiners have been leaving more toluene in the gasoline pool rather than separating it. Toluene back-blending now only accounts for 6% of demand and will likely continue to decrease as refiners continue to leave even more toluene in the gasoline pool.

The major chemical use of toluene is to make benzene and xylenes via disproportionation (TDP), or benzene via hydrodealkylation (HDA) processes. About 7% is used to make solvents and about 7% of US demand is from toluene diisocyanate (TDI). Minor uses are found in the production of benzoic acid, benzyl chloride, benzaldehyde. Aggregate demand growth for the chemical uses is anticipated to be 2% per annum, through 2009.


The toluene market is positive in outlook due to high crude oil prices, a tight benzene situation and a balanced paraxylene market. With no capacity additions in sight, a balanced to tight situation should prevail for the forecast period. Demand growth is projected to be 1.5% per year, to 2009.

BP Chemicals, Texas City, Tex. 245
Chalmette Refining, Chalmette, La. 110
Citgo Refining & Chemicals, Corpus Christi, Tex.; Lake Charles, La.; Lemont, Ill. 110
ConocoPhillips, Alliance, La.; Sweeny, Tex. 170
Dow Chemical, Plaquemine, La. 15
Equistar Chemicals, Alvin (Chocolate Bayou), Tex.; Channelview, Tex.; Houston, Tex. 66
ExxonMobil Chemical, Baton Rouge, LA; Baytown, Tex., Beaumont, Tex. 275
Flint Hills Resources, Corpus Christi, Tex. 145
Frontier El Dorado Refining, El Dorado, Kan. 10
Hovensa, St. Croix, Virgin Islands 90
Lyondell-Citgo Refining, Houston, Tex. 35
Marathon Ashland Petroleum,?Catlettsburg, Ky.; Texas City, Tex. 60
Shell Chemical, Deer Park, Tex. 35
Sunoco Chemicals, Marcus Hook, Penn.; Toledo, Ohio; Westville, N.J. 155
Total Petrochemicals USA, Port Arthur, Tex. 77
Valero Energy, Corpus Christi, Tex; Lima,?Ohio; Three Rivers, Tex. 175
By-product toluene from styrene?production—six sites. 55
TOTAL 1,828

*Millions of gallons per year capacity of toluene recovered from catalytically reformed refinery streams (94 percent), pyrolysis gasoline derived from steam cracking of hydrocarbons to produce ethylene and propylene (5 percent), and as a by-product of styrene manufacture from ethylbenzene (1 percent). Most toluene produced, however, is not isolated from the various refinery streams, but blended into the gasoline pool.

Companies that have the capability to obtain toluene as a by-product of styrene manufacture are: Ineos at Texas City, Tex.; CPChem at St. James, La.; Cos-Mar Company at Carville, La.; Dow at Freeport, Tex.; NOVA Chemicals at Bayport, Tex.; and Sterling Chemicals at Texas City, Tex.

Three grades of toluene are produced: (1) TDI-grade, toluene content 99+ percent with distillation range 1ºC; (2) nitration-grade, toluene content 98.5% to 100% with distillation range 1ºC; and (3) commercial-grade, toluene content 96 percent with distillation range 2ºC.

In September 2005, Valero Energy acquired The Premcor Refining Group Inc. (formerly Clark Refining & Marketing, Inc.) with its Lima, Ohio refinery, creating the largest refinery company in North America.??In January 2004, Sunoco purchased the Eagle Point refinery in Westville, N.J. from El Paso Corp. On October 1, 2004 Atofina Petrochemicals changed its name to Total Petrochemicals USA. Equistar Chemicals became a wholly owned subsidiary of Lyondell Chemical Company in December, 2004.

In February 2003, Valero Energy purchased the Corpus Christi refinery from El Paso Corp.

Chalmette Refining is a JV between Exxon Mobil Corporation and PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela SA). HOVENSA is a JV between a subsidiary of Amerada Hess and a subsidiary of PDVSA. Lyondell-Citgo Refining is a JV between Lyondell Chemical Company and Citgo Petroleum Corporation. Flint Hills Resources is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Equistar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lyondell.


By: Mark Kirschner
+1 713 525 2653

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