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 Q2 2020
Supply in the region was ample with the arbitrage window to the US closed. Inventories in China continued to increase as sellers shipped more cargoes there, being the first economy to exit from lockdowns after successfully containing the coronavirus. Deep-sea lots from the US and Europe also found their way to northeast Asia, adding to availability in the region.
Demand slumped in Q2 amid the rout in global oil prices. The lockdown across many economies cut demand sharply, with buyers on the sidelines. Businesses were shuttered and trade ground to a standstill amid the pandemic. With some economies exiting lockdowns from the later part of the quarter, demand revived modestly but remained well below normal levels.
Availability of benzene in Europe during the second quarter was very long, owing to drastically reduced demand. Consumption levels fell to unprecedented lows, as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated lockdowns. Demand from the key end-use automotive sector was particularly stagnated as factories closed and there were fewer drivers on the road. The oversupply was only managed by exporting to Asia; the only region with any demand at the time.
Buying interest for benzene in Europe was severely reduced in the second quarter of 2020, as that was the period the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the region. Countries and entire industries went into lockdown, with manufacturing and purchasing put on hold. Demand from the key styrene sector, and ultimately from the end-use automotive market was destroyed during this period. Packaging and single-use plastics, or material that could be used to prevent the spread of the virus were the only sectors that showed positive demand.
Benzene supplies remained long for most of Q2 after demand plummeted at the height of lockdown measures brought on by the novel coronavirus. Production was curtailed as refineries slowed due to low demand for fuels and other refined products. US imports reached new monthly highs in April as benzene deliveries increased as production in Asia rebound.
Downstream demand for polystyrene has been somewhat attractive during much of Q2 amid strong demand for food and consumer goods packaging to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Overall demand was down, as the pandemic resulted in slowdowns in the construction, durable goods, and the paints and coatings sector.
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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