The xylenes markets are covered by ICIS weekly in Asia, Europe and the US and daily in Asia. Independent and unbiased price assessments are quoted for isomer and solvent grade in Asia, solvent grade in Europe and for mixed xylenes in the US. Our network of locally-based reporters can provide you with trustworthy and reliable information upon which you can make informed business choices.
Our news and analysis within the commentary of the reports includes overviews, upstream and downstram news, production updates, tank inventories, outlooks, demand and supply and any other factors pertinent to the market at the time.
Updated to Q4 2020
Supply continued falling due to reduced operating rates among naphtha reformers. In Korea, three crackers were shut down, reducing the supply of solvent-grade MX. In southeast Asia, two key plants in Thailand and Singapore supplying solvent-grade MX were shut down for maintenance in Q4, leading to very short supply in the region.
Supply in Q4 was reduced due to plant turnarounds, with Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals and South Korea’s Kumho P&B shut in October. Chinese production remained curbed, due to the high cost of feedstock acetone hampering margins. Shandong Yimeide stayed shut, alongside operationally ready lines such as Zhuhai Long Success.
Demand increased from both PX production and gasoline blending needs. As the price gap between MX and PX widened to near breakeven levels, some PX plants began increasing their production loads. Gasoline blending demand improved amid China’s increased refinery operating rates. In India, the import demand for solvent-grade MX was strong amid a Middle East plant outage.
Demand in Q4 was largely strong, mirroring the recovery in China’s automobile industry, where MIBK is used in tyres. Prices were further bolstered by the uptrend in feedstock acetone prices, particularly in November. Domestic prices in east China hit an historical high in H2 December, since the quote was first introduced in February 2019.
Supply in Q4 was mainly balanced, with some few weeks seeing tightness develop. Some of the shortness was experienced as producers were not ready to extract material and kept operating levels to a minimum due to the market conditions. In general producers, were only concentrating on fulfilling contract volumes as there was not much incentive from the spot market. Some producers in Europe were undertaking plant maintenance, further reducing supplies from the market.
Demand was overall weak in the European market. Gasoline blenders did not want to pay higher premiums as it was not profitable. The interest from the chemical sector was slightly better due to positive spreads with the downstream products. There were some improvements with exports from Europe heading mainly to the US. The festive period towards the end of Q4 brought the spot market to a standstill.
Supply remained mostly balanced throughout Q4 despite heightened volatility amid the ongoing pandemic. Severe weather in the US Gulf Coast region during the previous quarter had constricted supplies when roughly 10 percent of total mixed xylenes (MX) capacity was taken offline for repairs. Some refiners announced that operations would not resume until market conditions improve. At the same time, exports from key European and South American countries have increased.
MX demand has been rather tepid in Q4, with most refiners switching out MX volumes reserved for gasoline octane enhancements as the winter driving season begins. Though premiums for toluene and MX have sharply increased during the US holiday travel season, few changes to derivative demand for paraxylene have emerged to compensate for the changes in the refining landscape as run rates are still well below industry averages.
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Xylenes are produced, along with benzene and toluene, from a reformer after running naphtha through an ethylene cracker.
The major use for xylenes is in the production of paraxylene (PX) and orthoxylene (OX). They are also used as a solvent in the paints industry and for other solvent uses.
Mixed xylenes (MX) are produced by high-severity catalytic reforming of naphtha from which the C8 stream contains OX, metaxylene and PX, as well as ethylbenzene (EB).
Xylenes are also obtained from the pyrolysis gas (pygas) stream in a naphtha steam cracker and by toluene disproportionation (TDP) and transalkylation.
Mixed xylenes occur as a colourless, flammable liquid or crystals, with a characteristic odour. They are insoluble in water and miscible with most organic solvents.
Mixed xylenes are a clear, sweet and flammable aromatic liquid or vapour. They are harmful or fatal if swallowed or inhaled, causing respiratory tract irritation, eye and skin irritation or an allergic skin reaction.