Benzene to remain volatile on supply issues - executive

13 November 2012 12:57  [Source: ICIS news]

Global benzene to stay volatileBERLIN (ICIS)--Global benzene volatility is expected to continue amid availability challenges and lower benzene, toluene, xylene (BTX) extraction, said Craig Barry, global business director, aromatics at Dow Chemical, on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 11th World Aromatics & Derivatives Conference in Berlin, Germany, Barry said that the current dynamic of volatility is largely because benzene is a co-product of large markets such as gasoline and ethane.

It is the considerations of these markets rather than benzene demand that drives the global supply of benzene, and benzene has been impacted by regional changes in BTX extraction.

“The refinery guy is not thinking about BTX,” Barry explained, citing high octane gasoline and hydrogen supply as higher priorities. “This is shifting, but it takes time.”

While there are several on purpose benzene production solutions like HDA (hydrodealkylation) and TDP (toluene disproportionation), Barry said that these are not often viable.

“We have the technological capability, but the economics are not right a lot of the time,” he said. “Toluene prices follow benzene, and for the same reasons.”

Benzene prices in both Europe and North America have soared this year on continued feedstock supply issues.

Barry identified several reasons for the reduced output of pyrolysis gasoline (pygas), including more ethanol displacing reformate in the US gasoline pool amid flat demand, and news US shale oil production yielding less benzene.

He also noted that China is targeting a reduction on their dependence on imported naphtha, which will mean reduced aromatics availability.

“Markets will respond and rebalance themselves,” said Barry, drawing parallels to the butadiene market a few years ago. “The question is one of timing and the extent to which these changes are structural as opposed to cyclical.”

The 11th World Aromatics & Derivatives Conference, organised by ICIS and International eChem, is taking place in Berlin on 13-14 November 2012.

By: Truong Mellor
+44 208 652 3214

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