US cumene exports expected to remain unattractive to Asia

30 January 2013 19:58  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US cumene exports are expected to remain unattractive, mostly on high feedstocks, sources said at the ICIS Pan-American Phenol-Acetone Conference on Wednesday.

“As raw material costs go up, US cumene becomes more unattractive and uncompetitive,” a trader said. “Imports will become more common than exports.”

Currently, cumene feedstocks benzene and refinery-grade propylene (RGP) are more expensive in the US.

This is making exports of cumene and its key derivatives, phenol and acetone, uncompetitive with overseas material, especially into Asia.

Sources said the recent boom in Asian phenol-acetone production is unlikely to create demand for US cumene exports, as those facilities will be backward integrated.

Currently, the US is estimated to be net exporter of cumene, but volumes have fallen from more than 100,000 tonnes/year to less than 70,000 tonnes/year.

“US phenol producers will be the deciding source of when it makes sense to import cumene,” the trader said.

The trader added that US domestic phenol demand is expected to stay flat or fall slightly, limiting overall cumene imports.

Major US cumene producers include CITGO, Flint Hills Resources, Georgia Gulf, Marathon, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Shell Chemical.

By: John Dietrich

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