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.
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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
Asia toluene spot prices are under pressure because of the reduced spot appetite from the key China market ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays in the end of January. However, players remained uncertain about the price outlook after the festive period as supply-demand conditions will be unclear, pending the new paraxylene (PX) plant run rates and the opportunistic gasoline blending demand.
January has already seen some upward movement on pricing in Europe for toluene following several refinery and cracker issues in the ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) region and an explosion at Shell’s Godorf site in Germany that destroyed a toluene storage tank. While it is still too early to say whether this will have a pronounced effect on the market, there has been no impact on production other than possibly some pressure on deliveries for prompt cargo.
The US market, the key global driver for toluene, will face continued pressure from increased shale production, and this is likely to keep upward pressure on pricing and pull European material in 2014.
Updated to mid-Jan 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.