Benzene US Transcript
Benzene is a major chemical feedstock used to produce a number of other petrochemcials such as ethyl benzene, styrene and solvents such as cumene, phenol and acetone.
Main sources of benzene are from the steam-cracking or catatlytic reforming of liquid petroleum feedstocks, primarily naphtha where benzene is recovered from the aromatics stream.
Now although benzene is mainly sourced from naphtha, crude and gasoline futures on NYMEX have also shown to be much more key driver on the market at times.
Other factors that can influence on the market is the weather, especially in the summer time. Much of the North American benzene production is concentrated in the US Gulf, which is always vulnerable to hurricanes. A couple of examples of this are hurricanes Rita and Katrina in the summer of 2006. That took a lot of US Gulf production off line. We saw this again in the summer of 2008 with Hurricane Ike.
Benzene can also be influenced by strong downstream demand from the styrene sector.
The ICIS US Gulf benzene report is used by some majors as a benchmark in the aromatic petrochemicals sector. This is important because many companies trust ICIS and how we assess the market.
They can pretty much base their business and really put it in our hand because we publish a single contract number and we publish spot prices. Now that can influence their outlook for an entire month or quarter or an entire year. The US Gulf report includes contract prices and weekly spot prices on an free on board (FOB) basis.