Benzene reports are published weekly by ICIS in Asia, Europe and the US, with contract and spot price assessments, market news and analysis.
Benzene forecast reports for all three regions are published on a monthly basis, covering the market up to one year ahead. Monthly forecast reports are also available for the Styrene market.
Updated to Q4 2020
Supply was reduced marginally in Q4 2020 by some arbitrage opportunities to the US and Europe. Firm demand in those regions drew Asia cargoes over, resulting in a reduction in supply length towards late year. Otherwise, most plants continued to operate normally in the region while inventories along eastern Chinese shore tanks remained elevated at more than 250,000 tonnes.
Demand recovery continued to pick up pace in Q4, building on momentum from Q3. Buoyant crude oil markets also lent support to the benzene upswing while news of vaccine roll-outs in 2021 stoked bullish sentiment towards the year-end. The key downstream styrene monomer (SM) market was particularly bullish as resin consumption was lifted by increased manufacturing activities in Q4.
Europe benzene spot prices were elevated in the Q4 2020 on tight supply, with few offers and little material available for prompt delivery. An unexpected surge in healthy derivative styrene demand in Asia and domestically; a delay to imports, as well as a large volume of exports having left Europe in recent months led to the supply limitation. The spread to naphtha finally improved after months of extremely narrow and unprofitable spreads.
Demand for benzene in Europe from key styrene for styrenics and the phenolics chain was healthy in Q4 2020, with some plants running at healthy rates and looking to work later in December than is usual for the season. Some EBSM (ethylbenzene/styrene monomer) units ran harder than earlier in the year. A series of planned maintenance turnarounds downstream in the autumn reduced some of the demand, but it was still higher than it had been for much of 2020.
Benzene supply lagged behind demand for most of the Q4 after a spike in global derivative styrene demand beginning in mid-to-late October set off a surge in buying activity for benzene feedstock. Long supplies that mounted for much of the year due to the pandemic quickly tightened and pushed values to pre-pandemic levels. Limited availability for prompt benzene in December tapered off as styrene demand receded.
Demand has firmed since the sharp rise in styrene demand helped buoy benzene purchases for most of Q4. Market sources regularly indicated that heightened styrene demand in key Asia markets propelled much of the demand domestically after months of weakening fundamentals in the US market kept demand lower. Buying activity has recently subsided as fresh supplies begin to resurface.
We offer the following regional Benzene analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Benzene marketplace.
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Benzene is used primarily as a raw material in the synthesis of styrene (polystyrene plastics and synthetic rubber).
Benzene is a colourless, refractive liquid with a characteristic aromatic odour. Its vapour is toxic and highly flammable. In cold weather, benzene solidifies to a white crystalline mass. It is slightly soluble in water, miscible with ethyl alcohol, ether, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, carbon disulphide, and glacial acetic acid (GAA).
Benzene is the largest volume aromatic petrochemical used to produce a number of petrochemical intermediates.
Ethylbenzene (EB) is the largest chemical outlet for benzene and nearly all is consumed in the production of styrene.
The second largest outlet for benzene is cumene which is nearly all consumed in phenol production with acetone formed as a coproduct.
The third largest outlet for benzene is cyclohexane (CX) which finds its way primarily into the nylon chain via caprolactam and adipic acid.
The fourth main derivative of benzene is nitrobenzene, which can be used to make aniline.
Benzene is used to make a number of other chemical intermediates such as alkylbenzene used in detergents, maleic anhydride(unsaturated polyester resins) and chlorobenzenes (engineering polymers).
The main sources of benzene are from the steam cracking or catalytic reforming of liquid petroleum feedstocks, primarily naphtha, where the benzene is recovered from the aromatics stream. Other processes are hydrodealkylation (HDA) of toluene and toluene disproportionation (TDP).
ICIS Benzene Price Index
US Benzene Prices were assessed at $2.75 – 2.83 / gal FOB (free on board) in mid June 2015. Downstream US styrene outages have depressed benzene prices whilst at the same time fuel blending demand has raised Prices for Toluene to $2.95-3.08/gal. This change has almost eliminated the spread between the two aromatics in the US for the first half of 2015.
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