By Malini Hariharan
Indian exports of benzene are set to rise over the next few years as new plants start up.
"India will remain in a net surplus position over the next five years and exports will continue, with [benzene] from western India moving to the Middle East, the US and Europe, and benzene from eastern India shipped to southeast and northeast Asia," said S B Dutta, Haldia Petrochemicals' senior general manager marketing, at the Indian Petrochem - 2011 conference.
India exported around 455,000 tonnes of benzene in 2010, up from 330,000 tonnes in 2008. Capacity during this period moved up from 1.1m tonnes/year to 1.25m tonnes/year, while demand in the country grew from 600,000 tonnes/year to 625,000 tonnes/year.
Nearly 475,000 tonnes/year of capacity is due to be added over the next three years, with new plants set to be commissioned by ONGC Mangalore Petrochemicals Ltd (OMPL), ONGC Petro-Additions Ltd (OpAL) and Reliance Industries.
Demand for major derivatives is growing at 5-10%/year, led by overall economic growth, but no major projects are on the horizon.
For instance, styrene demand is projected to grow from 470,000 tonnes in 2010 to 585,000 tonnes in 2012, and the entire volume will be serviced by imports as no styrene projects are in the pipeline in the country.
Demand for linear alkyl benzene (LAB), which accounts for 28% of Indian benzene consumption, is projected to grow at 5-6%/year in the next five years, but with no new capacity planned, imports are set to rise.
Phenol demand is expected to rise from 150,000 tonnes this year to more than 200,000 tonnes in 2015-2016. With local production running at around 70,000 tonnes/year, imports will account for about 60% of demand.