US May cumene prices fall by 4.5% on cheaper feedstocks

10 May 2012 16:43  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US May cumene contract prices slipped by 4.5%, tracking cheaper feedstock levels and softer demand, sources confirmed on Thursday.

US May cumene contract prices were settled at 62-64 cents/lb ($1,367-1,411/tonne, €1,053-1,086/tonne) on an FOB (free on board) basis.

This is a drop of 3 cents/lb from April’s settlement of 65-67 cents/lb FOB.

The biggest reason for the drop was the fall of feedstock refinery-grade propylene (RGP), which shed more than 10 cents/lb in May from April, as assessed by ICIS.

Benzene, the other key cumene feedstock, was largely stable, gaining just 9 cents/gal in May, an increase of 2.2%.

Cumene demand dipped slightly in April, with operating rates at downstream phenol-acetone plants stable-to-slightly-softer, tracking weak export demand.

Sources said inventory-building of cumene also slowed, as it becomes more likely supply will not tighten as much as expected in the summer.

This is because Sunoco pushed back its deadline to permanently shut down its Philadelphia refinery in Pennsylvania after entering talks with The Carlyle Group to form a joint venture there.

The refinery has a 545,000 tonne/year cumene unit on the site.

In early April, most market players expected the refinery would be permanently shut down by July, leading to concerns of cumene tightness afterward.

Major cumene producers include CITGO, Flint Hills Resources, Georgia Gulf, Marathon, Shell Chemical and Sunoco.

($1 = €0.77)

By: John Dietrich

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