Weak benzene squeezes TDP/HDA margins in Asia

11 February 2010 11:27  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--A number of Asian toluene disproportionation (TDP) and hydro-delkylation (HDA) processors are planning to cut production of benzene and mixed xylenes as their margins have tightened following recent sharp drops in benzene values, traders and producers said on Thursday.

Two Korean producers were considering production cuts or shutdowns at their TDP and HDA units from March. Some Japanese producers were also looking at similar options, market players said.

One Korean producer confirmed a shutdown at its benzene unit from March due to poor TDP/HDA economics.

Margins have been under pressure in the past few weeks as the price spread from benzene to feedstock toluene have narrowed to about $65-70/tonne (47-51/tonne), well below the $100/tonne difference needed to cover costs.

Producers said the price spread narrowed due to a fall in benzene prices in mid-January.

Benzene prices fell from mid-$1,000/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea to $900/tonne FOB Korea level due to high supply in the region and a sharp decline in crude values, they said

Steady demand from the region’s largest buyer, China, limited the fall in toluene prices, they added.

Traders and producers said importers in China continued to buy regional cargoes despite domestic inventories being at a high of 120,000 tonnes.

Demand for toluene from the TDP/HDA segment could fall which is likely to add to the regional balance, they added.

Benzene prices in Asia were at $910-920/tonne FOB Korea on Thursday while toluene values were at $840-855/tonne FOB Korea, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

($1 = €0.73)

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By: Mahua Chakravarty
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