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
Updated to Q2 2015
In the US barge toluene market, demand from the summer gasoline-blending segment is expected to increase in the near-term, providing price support for toluene despite still-volatile crude and a recently softer gasoline market, where consumption is down and stocks are higher. In the downstream petrochemical market, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) was stable but sources said it could soften on ample availability and steady demand from downstream polyurethane (PU) products.
European toluene spot prices depend largely on gasoline values. Weak aromatics prices have limited the use of toluene for on-purpose benzene and xylene production. Gasoline blenders are seen as the only sizeable bidders in the market. Contract values are expected to continue to track spot price movements.
In Asia, spot toluene is expected to be tighter in the second quarter, in line with an increase in blending requirements from key producers in South Korea and Japan. The regions driving demand will likely be Southeast Asia and India, with China buyers probably sidelined until early May partly because of soft blending demand. Solvent demand is expected to stay strong, but not put much upward pressure on prices and overall demand.
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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.