12 June 2006 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Cyclohexane’s major outlet is in nylon intermediates adipic acid, caprolactam and hexamethylene diamine. Adipic acid, used to make nylon 6,6 fibre, accounts for about 60% of cyclohexane demand. More than 70% of global caprolactam, used to make nylon 6, is made from cyclohexane via cyclohexanone.
Cyclohexane is also used as a solvent, a reaction diluent and in chemical synthesis. It is also a starting material for the production of cyclohexanol-cyclohexanone – KA Oil.
Europe has become more balanced after being short in early 2006 from high gas costs, notably in the UK, and restricted hydrogen supply. Regular imports are seen from eastern Europe, Saudi Arabia and South America. Demand is at normal levels, despite some recent production problems and force majeure declarations at downstream users.
Huntsman’s plant at Port Arthur, Texas, US, is down following a fire in late April and could be down for several months. However, impact appears minimal with the US market still fairly well covered and little opportunity for European suppliers to export as US prices remain unattractive.
Major buyer BASF has built a 130 000 tonne/year plant near Ludwigshafen, Germany, which went online at the end of 2005. Cepsa’sAromax plant has started up this year, solving its hydrogen shortage and allowing higher cyclohexane output.
The European contract price for June settled at €955/tonne ex-works NWE, reflecting the €125/tonne increase in the benzene contract. The second quarter delta was set at €145/tonne, down €10/tonne on the first quarter.
Some players have shifted to a monthly formula-related price following dissatisfaction with the delta mechanism, particularly in 2005 when producers were hit hard by surging gas costs. However, opinions differ as to whether delta-related pricing will eventually disappear, with some players happy to have both systems in place for flexibility.
Most production is based on the catalytic hydrogenation of benzene. This can be carried out by liquid or vapour-phase methods in the presence of a highly dispersed catalyst or in a catalytic fixed bed. Processes differ mainly in the means of removing the heat of reaction. Minimum reactor temperatures are preferred for maximum benzene conversion and minimum cyclohexane cracking.
Most plants use reformer offgas, which yields benzene and large amounts of hydrogen by-product. Hydrogen and benzene costs are critical for manufacturing economics with plants that are often near large refineries.
Cyclohexane is a colourless liquid with a mild odour. It is highly flammable and readily forms explosive mixtures with air. Flashback is a hazard. It is an irritant and high concentrations can cause unconsciousness.
Future demand growth is put at about 2%/year to 2010. Nylon growth in many outlets has stagnated and is below GDP rates. The main growth for nylon now is in plastics (4–6%/year) and in some industrial filament uses (2.5–3%/year).
New investment is focused in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China, where demand growth is strongest. Hydrogen constraints will continue in Europe and the US due to desulphurisation needs for gasoline and diesel, making them high-cost production locations. As a result, future European and US cyclohexane prices are expected to be high relative to Asian levels.
Profile last published 26 April 2004
|European Cyclohexane Capacity||’000 tonne/year|
|BP Refining and Petrochemicals||Gelsenkirchen, Germany||140|
|Fina Antwerp Olefins||Antwerp, Belgium||110|
|Grodno Azot||Grodno, Belarus||80|
|Holborn Refinery||Hamburg, Germany||65|
|Huntsman Petrochemicals||Wilton, UK||330|
|JSC Kuibyshevazot||Togliatti, Russia||120|
|Kemerovo Azot||Kemerovo, Russia||155|
|Lukoil Neftochim||Burgas, Bulgaria||50|
|PKN Orlen||Plock, Poland||120|
|SSME Azot||Severodonetsk, Ukraine||50|
|ZA Pulawy||Pulawy, Poland||60|
|ZA Tarnowie-Moscicach||Tarnow, Poland||35|
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