Toluene Prices, markets & analysis
With a network of price reporters across Asia, Europe and the US, ICIS is fully equipped to keep you updated on everything that happens in the global Toluene market, whether you buy or sell Toluene or related products.
From daily and weekly reports containing price assessments obtained by our network of local reporters, to the news and analysis that put the market into focus, we provide the tools you need to make confident business decisions.
Our editor gives their expert view
Toluene overview Transcript
Toluene is a basic chemical and a feedstock for a wide range of applications.
Toluene is used primarily as a solvent for paints, coatings and cleaners in China, Southeast Asia and India. It is also used widely in this region for the production of toluene diisocyanate or TDI.
Toluene’s use is key in the production of benzene and mixed xylenes via toluene disproportionation or TDP, and hydro dealkylation or HAD, which make up about 20% of Asia’s aromatics production.
The use of toluene as a blendstock for gasoline blending is a key emerging segment in Asia. It started with the US, where MTBE was banned from the gasoline pool resulting in the increased use of toluene as an octane booster. In Asia toluene’s consumption for gasoline blending is increasing rapidly, especially in countries like China, which is expected to soon become the world’s largest car market.
Toluene is produced from the catalytic reforming of naphtha and from pyrolysis gasoline coproduced in the steam cracking of liquid feedstocks.
Not surprisingly China is the largest importer in Asia. It imports between 50,000 and 70,000 tonnes of toluene every month. But regional exporters are facing stiff competition following capacity additions by local giants like Sinopec, hence toluene exporters in Asia are increasingly turning towards India. India is seen as the next most rapidly growing market with estimated growth at about 7 to 8% per year.
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Toluene: Market overview
Overall for the first quarter, toluene spot prices have been volatile.
Toluene prices began January on a downtrend, but peaked in February on short-lived interest from blenders. Prices gradually came back down again in March, because of weakening demand.
US toluene prices are expected to be stable to weak in the second quarter, according to market participants. Demand for blendstocks such as xylene and toluene typically picks up in the spring, and trade sources had said they expected some demand from the gasoline sector to pick up in March and April.
However, demand has been thin in the first quarter alongside ample octane availability.
In addition, the toluene and xylene markets have been competing with other lower-priced blendstock markets, such as reformate and alkylate.
US refiners were also said to be holding toluene and xylene for internal octane usage, according to trade sources.
Updated to mid-April 2014
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Toluene is a colourless, mobile liquid with a characteristic sweet, pungent, benzene-like odour. It is an irritant to the eyes, skin, nose and lungs. Toluene is a dangerous fire hazard and can lead to a flashback due to its heavy vapour.
The main chemical use of toluene is to make benzene and xylenes using a number of technologies.
Toluene is also used in solvent applications and is consumed in the manufacture of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) which is used in the manufacture of polyurethane foams. Smaller uses for TDI include polyurethane elastomers and coatings.
Other minor chemical uses include the manufacture of phenol, caprolactam, nitrobenzene, benzoic acid and benzyl chloride.
In non-chemical uses, toluene is used in large quantities as an octane booster in gasoline but most of that portion remains in the refinery streams.
There are three grades of toluene: TDI grade of 99+% purity; nitration grade at 98.5-100%.
The original source of toluene from coke-oven gas has been replaced by the catalytic reforming of naphthas and from pyrolysis gasoline co-produced in the steam cracking of liquid feedstocks. A very small amount is still produced from light oil formed by the carbonisation of coal.