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 Q1 2020
Output in the region was mostly stable after two new plants started up in late 2019. The US-China phase 1 trade deal stoked confidence that availability in the region would be met with adequate buying interest.
The Lunar New Year holidays, which started in late January, coupled with the spread of the coronavirus in February and March dampened demand. Lockdowns and travel constraints impacted trade and supply chains across the region.
Europe benzene supply lengthened in the first quarter of 2020, in what transpired as one of the most remarkable quarters in at least a decade. The outbreak of the coronavirus, which developed into a pandemic weakened demand in the second half of the quarter, which resulted in oversupply. There were some limitations in January on low stocks, reduced run rates and fewer imports; but that rapidly and significantly changed from February and through March. Several crackers were running reduced by the end of the quarter.
European benzene demand was fairly in line with flat expectations at the start of the year, but showed gradual signs of decline from the end of January as the coronavirus started spreading outside of China. Reduced demand in the automotive sector, and through the supply chain coincided with sharply lower crude oil prices, and the combination led to the lowest prices in over 30 years. The contract price fell by 77% between February and April.
Benzene supply lengthened in Q1 2020 as the sell-off in the global energy sector drove supply stocks higher. Despite expectations of stronger refinery rates due to 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations and a crude rally in early January, benzene values have fallen to 18-year lows as coronavirus ushered in a global supply glut for downstream commodities. Weakened Asian imports due to slashed production rates also contributed to longer domestic supply.
Demand continues to weaken as the fallout from coronavirus has battered the global economy. Despite widening arbitrage opportunities between the US and South Korea, as well as between the US and Europe, for most of the quarter, spreads have narrowed significantly as the pandemic matures in the US. Weakening downstream demand for styrene momentarily set negative margins for benzene production during the quarter.
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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