China set for aromatics expansion

By Malini Hariharan

China is preparing to bring onstream huge capacities for aromatics this year.

Nearly 1.7m tonnes/year of  toluene capacity is due to be added, writes Dolly Wu in the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business.

The major projects to keep an eye on are Dragon Aromatics (350kta), Jilin Petrochemical (350kt), PetroChina Sichuan Petrochemical (280kts) and Jiujiang (250kta).

Some of the toluene will be utilised captively at new toluene disproportination (TDP) plants to feed the country’s booming demand for paraxylene (PX). TDP and hydroalkylation (HDA) applications accounted for 44% of toluene demand in 2011.

Additional toluene supply means that import volumes are likely to remain stable at around 600,000 tonnes. Demand for the full year is projected to hit 7.4m tonnes, up from nearly 6m tonnes in 2011.

Toluene demand for gasoline blending, the highlight of the local market for the last couple of years, will remain strong. But volumes are not projected to rise significantly, given ready availability of alternatives such as MTBE and mixed xylenes (MX).

China is already self sufficient in benzene and is heading in the same direction for toluene.

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