US July cumene contract facing slight upward price pressure

09 July 2012 23:00  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US July cumene contract price is facing slight upward pressure, sources said on Monday.

The July contract price is expected to settle higher by 2-3 cents/lb ($44-66/tonne, €36-54/tonne) FOB (free on board), source said.

June cumene contract prices were assessed by ICIS at 53-55 cents/lb FOB in mid June.

With key feedstock benzene gaining 19 cents/gal in its July contract settlement, sources said July cumene had to move up.

It was also expected that there would not be much price relief from the other cumene feedstock, refinery-grade propylene (RGP), which was steady at the start of July.

A buyer said feedstocks are expected to remain the main driver for cumene prices because the demand-supply balance should stay steady.

That is because weak export availability has led to lower than normal operating rates at downstream phenol-acetone plants.

“The phenol market is short right now, but it’s also soft,” a cumene buyer said.

Premiums for cumene over feedstock costs could also decline as supply lengthens in the wake of Sunoco's announcement of its joint venture with alternative asset management company The Carlyle Group to keep the refiner’s 330,000 bbl/day Philadelphia plant in Pennsylvania running.

The refinery has a 545,000 tonne/year cumene unit, but no confirmation has been received that the unit will continue running. However, market sources said there is “no reason” for it to be shut down if the refinery continues operating.

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

($1 = €0.82)

By: John Dietrich

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