Benzene, styrene demand to grow in the years up to 2014 - Shell

23 November 2010 11:38  [Source: ICIS news]

BERLIN (ICIS)--Demand for benzene, styrene and the whole C6 chain is set to show strong growth in the years up to 2014, said a senior executive from Shell on Tuesday.

Substitution of polystyrene (PS) by polypropylene (PP) has plateaued, so growth in benzene is expected to be 3.9%/year and in styrene 3.6%/year, said Sven Royall, vice president intermediates at Shell Chemical, in his keynote address to the 9th European Aromatics and Derivatives Conference.

The other key demand drivers underpinning this growth would be for expandable polystyrene (EPS) in the construction sector, and for polycarbonate (PC) in the automotive area.

From an environmental perspective, the production of EPS and polyurethane (PU) insulation materials would result in less than half the carbon footprint of rockwool, the non-petrochemical competing product, said Royall.

PU and EPS together account for 40% of the total energy savings attributed to petrochemical products, he added.

The use of EPS in construction was set to grow by 3.67% in Europe between 2010-2014, and by 3.82% in other applications.

In the automotive sector, the 1bn new vehicles set to come on to the world’s roads from now to 2050, would need a lot of plastic. This sector was currently accounting for 15% of all benzene across the regions, with automotive glazing a particularly fast-growing area, said Royall.

The challenges for the C6 (benzene and its derivatives) value chain were still the unpredictability of supply and price volatility.

“Prices can vary by up to 30% a month,” he said.

In the styrene market, between 1m and 1.5m in new capacity has been scheduled to come on stream after the end of this year.

“But this is only one year’s incremental demand. So from 2011 onwards, the styrene market will be in better balance,” said Royall.

However, if China were to go down the route of self-sufficiency, there is the likelihood that Middle East volumes could come to Europe, he added.

Shell’s position in the market is to be a “profitable hydrocarbon upgrader … We’ve withdrawn from downstream and we have no plans to return”, he said.

In response to a question from the conference floor regarding on-purpose production of benzene, Royall said: “With PC growth over 5%, and substitution in automotive, there will be the incentive to build on-purpose benzene production, and we will see some innovative attempts at least to make on-purpose benzene.”

The 9th European Aromatics and Derivatives Conference takes place in Berlin, Germany, on 23-24 November 2010.

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By: Barbara Ortner
+44 20 8652 3214

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