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 2019
Supply was constrained by some plant issues in southeast Asia. At the same time, the start-ups of two new plants in the region in November were also problematic as the producers struggled with off-spec material. Consequently, some users were seen scrambling for spot lots at the year end as they had depended on the new supply coming on smoothly.
Demand was normal in the fourth quarter while the attention of market participants centred on contract negotiations. The US-China trade war continued to cap import demand for China, with users relying mostly on domestic cargoes. The spot arbitrage window to the US was mostly closed since September with demand for Asian lots at a low ebb from this particular sector.
Supply of benzene in Europe was mostly balanced in the fourth quarter of 2019, with reduced year-end demand being matched by brief supply hiccups. General production was running more smoothly than it had been in the third quarter. The Europe December benzene contract price settled up by €70/tonne, which was a 13% increase compared with November. Prices trended up on rising crude values and a production hiccup, but demand was flat to soft.
European benzene demand was seasonally slower in Q4, as year-end destocking measures to reduce working capital took place. The last few weeks of the year were subdued, but there were pockets of increased activity and a number of trades took place in the trading window ahead of the January contract price settlement on 23 December. The January contract settled up by €64/tonne, its second consecutive monthly climb, with prices buoyed by firmer crude oil values.
Supply lengthened during the fourth quarter amid healthy refinery rates as refiners prepared for the impending 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations on high-sulphur bunker fuels and amid sustained imports from Asia. Imports remained steady due to growing oversupply in the key China market and weak domestic production of on-purpose benzene units. Depressed margins negatively impacted operating rates for disproportionate units.
Demand decreased in the fourth quarter as a low season and a global economic slowdown hurt demand for downstream products such as styrene. Imports from Asia also continued to impact the US market, despite the arbitrage window from South Korea to the US being closed. The economics for toluene disproportionate started off poor but improved in December as spot benzene prices moved up.
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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