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 in the region decreased amid several plant issues from late January to March. An earthquake in the eastern sea of Japan over the Lunar New Year holiday in February caused refineries and plants in Sendai and Chiba to shut for safety checks, which disrupted supply in region further. Some Middle East facilities also experienced issues, which impacted their output in March. Inventories in China fell steadily through the quarter to the low 100,000s tonnes.
The vaccine-led recovery continued to stoke a positive outlook regarding economic expansion. The healthy performance of downstream sectors also bolstered demand. There was a pick-up in Chinese import demand. As pandemic-related restrictions in the region eased further, demand continued to strengthen. The widening of the east-west arbitrage window also led to firmer demand for Asian parcels.
Benzene supply was mixed in the first quarter, as import arrivals began to improve inventory levels in January and early February, and exports decreased. But polar storms that hit the US in mid-February affected large refining capacities in the US and tightened markets globally. Weak production economics for paraxylene (PX) continued to restrain operating rates at integrated aromatics units.
Benzene saw strong demand in Q1 2021, as lockdowns around the region continued to support demand for styrene, polymers and other downstream products, despite some persistent weakness in the automotive sector. Construction-related demand was also stronger than usual. Even with the region’s largest styrene unit shut for maintenance, benzene remained relatively tight in Q1.
Benzene supply tightened for much of the quarter as the recent polar storm deeply affected production centres in the Texas refining region, sending refinery utilisation rates to record lows as producers grappled with unplanned maintenance issues. Already narrow benzene inventories due to the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as compounded supply constraints for much of the quarter.
As the US economy continues to make headway with the latest coronavirus vaccine rollout, benzene demand has been mixed at the outset of the year following a surge in demand for benzene feedstock in Q4. Derivative demand has buoyed benzene consumption for much of the quarter despite facing downstream production issues in the US Gulf Coast refining region amid the recent winter storm outages, with some downstream product force majeures heard.
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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Following on from the success of our first virtual event, the ICIS European & Asian Virtual Conference will bring together key players from across Europe and Asia to discuss the current challenges and opportunities within the Surfactants industry. This vibrant and varied digital event will provide a platform for business-critical conversations and expert insights to help you navigate through these exceptional times.
Join us on 10 – 11 November 2020, online