The Toluene markets are covered by ICIS weekly in Asia, Europe and the US. This reliable and trustworthy tool allows you to stay up-to-date with news and analysis and gives you the confidence to make vital commercial decisions.
Price assessments cover spot activity over the week as well as at close of business in the day, and contract prices are also published in Europe. This market intelligence is compiled by our locally-based reporters and commentary includes news on deals taking place, feedstock movements, demand and supply trends, outlooks, regional focus as well as graphs.
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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
Updated to Q4 2016
The Europe toluene market continues to track gasoline price movements, which are being buoyed by the relative strength of crude oil prices so far in October. There has been an upturn in demand from the gasoline blending sector, with players looking for material to export. Some mixed aromatics demand from China is also supporting European toluene consumption. However, several downstream toluene di-isoscyanate outages could see length on toluene build in the fourth quarter.
In Asia, weak demand from key import markets such as China could pressure FOB Korea prices, but players are expecting limited supply from South Korea and a narrow toluene-naphtha price spread to neutralise this situation.
In the US, toluene prices are likely to move down in the fourth quarter in line with the usual seasonal pattern. However, supply issues at the start of the quarter may keep prices buoyant through at least a part of the quarter. Additionally, the market may not have much room to move lower as toluene did not move higher during the summer months in line with expectations.
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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.