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 Q3 2020
Some new plants came onstream in China, but this was offset by turnarounds in the region, resulting in largely stable supply. Overall supply remained ample with buyers unhurried, while stocks in eastern Chinese shore tanks rose to more than 270,000 tonnes. The inflow of deep-sea lots seen in June and July ceased by August, as demand recovered somewhat in the US and Europe.
Demand from the US picked up for August and early September parcels, as the arbitrage window opened for that period. Chinese import demand remained tepid amid elevated stocks. New downstream plants in China that started up in Q2 and Q3 helped soak up some supplies from benzene units. Demand was largely stable in southeast Asia, with users largely well-stocked by term cargoes. Spot trade was largely inactive in southeast Asia.
European benzene prices suffered major blows during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak and despite gradual gains since early April have yet to return to February levels. The April contract dropped by 70% on lower demand and oversupply, the lowest price since ICIS records began in 2002. Globally, the market remains long. Some players in Asia might idle smaller aromatics units because reducing rates further will be difficult.
Demand has recovered slightly since dropping in March and April. An upward trajectory was seen until July, after which demand stagnated. The spread to naphtha has been under severe pressure since end-March and remains unprofitable as benzene demand is not strong enough. Consumer confidence has been dampened by fears of a second wave of infections and another reinstatement of lockdowns, which will weaken the economy again and result in further job losses.
Supplies lengthened during Q3 as weak market fundamentals from the pandemic continued from previous quarters. Despite heightened hurricane activity in the US Gulf Coast region bringing key aromatics facilities offline, benzene supplies increased as consumption into downstream products declined. Maintenance work planned for Q4 was moved up into late Q3, which will affect supplies in late Q3 to early Q4.
Sluggish demand persists overall with some indications of recovery. Major derivative production centres in Louisiana are offline in the aftermath of the US Gulf Coast storms, but styrene demand is proving resilient amid strong demand for PS in packaging. Phenol and acetone demand rose steadily with rebounding construction and automotive end-markets, though overall demand has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
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.
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