FocusUS cumene shortage limits global phenol/acetone market

04 February 2011 18:24  [Source: ICIS news]

By Heather Doyle

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US cumene market has become extremely tight, forcing downstream phenol and acetone producers to limit production, market sources said on Friday.

“US cumene sellers Citgo, Flint Hills and Georgia Gulf have scheduled turnarounds during the first half of the year and the US market is extremely tight, limiting exports to Europe, Asia and South America and reducing downstream phenol rates,” a cumene trader said.

Nearly 98% of cumene production is tied to phenol/acetone production, and the US is a key exporter to other regions.

Citgo is currently shut down for maintenance until late February. The company's Corpus Christi refinery in Texas produces 500,000 tonnes/year of cumene, according to ICIS plants and projects.

In addition, Flint Hills Resources is scheduled for a 4-to-5 week turnaround starting in mid-February. FHR's plant, also located in Corpus Christi, produces 680,000 tonnes/year of cumene, according to ICIS plants and projects.

In Pasadena, Texas, Georgia Gulf shut down its 680,000 tonne/year cumene plant on Tuesday after cold temperatures caused instrumentation problems. In a TCEQ filing, the company said it would attempt to restart the plant on Saturday.

The Georgia Gulf facility is also planning a maintenance turnaround from 1 April to mid-May, according to market sources.

Georgia Gulf postponed for one month its own maintenance turnaround in order to alleviate what might have become a critical supply situation, a cumene buyer said.

Media representatives from Citgo, Georgia Gulf and Flint Hills were not immediately available for comment. 

Cumene market participants attributed the extremely tight cumene supply situation to the shortage of feedstock refinery-grade propylene (RGP).

“Limited propylene feedstock prevented cumene producers from running flat out and disrupted the building of inventories in preparation for the turnarounds,” a cumene trader said.

The effects of this tightness are showing up in the downstream phenol market, where several producers are unable to run their plants full out due to limited feedstock.

Blue Island Phenol, Citgo, Dow Chemical, Flint Hills Resources, Georgia Gulf, INEOS, Marathon, and Shell are among the cumene producers in the US.

For more on cumene visit ICIS chemical intelligence
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Heather McGuire Doyle
+1 713 525 2653

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