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 Q2 2019
Supply of mixed xylene (MX) decreased as Iranian arrivals to east Asia stopped at the start of the quarter. Supply in southeast Asia was limited on unstable plant operations amid technical issues. Supply in northeast Asia was also limited by scheduled turnarounds in South Korea and Japan.
Demand of MX from downstream paraxylene (PX) producers weakened amid a planned turnaround at a 1m tonne/year end-user’s unit from the start of the second quarter to August. An explosion at a PX plant in Taiwan resulted in lower demand for MX.
European mixed xylenes supply was lengthy in the second quarter. Revived output from two Mediterranean plants (Italy’s Versalis and Petrogal’s Portuguese refineries) boosted availability after a slight tightening effect earlier in the year. Strike action at the Porto site had limited impact. There was a localised, short-term supply impact from the power outage at INEOS’ Dormagen refinery in Cologne on 17 May which produces toluene and mixed xylenes via the pygas route, with restarts over the following week.
European MX demand fell, which was evident in a significant fall in premiums over gasoline compared with late 2018. Weak margins for downstream products like paraxylene (PX) locally and in key Asian markets suppressed demand for exports. MX-PX spreads were negative for two weeks in May. Spot demand in the truck and bulk market was curtailed as suppliers had enough material to cover term business. Weakness in sectors like automotive amid Europe’s stuttering economic performance was name-checked as a dampener on demand.
Supply of mixed xylenes (MX) opened the quarter mixed but overall lengthened in the second quarter following the aftermath of the International Terminals Fire (ITC) in La Porte, Texas, in March. The fire prompted short-term supply concerns. However, supply lengthened as refiners increased operating rates in preparation for the summer gasoline season and shipping logistics concerns were resolved, allowing for increase.
Demand for MX for the gasoline blending sector increased in the second quarter in preparation for the summer gasoline season. Lengthening supply put downward pressure on the market, pushing prices closer in line with the blend value, discouraging producers from extracting the aromatic from the gasoline-blending pool for sale in the chemical market. Demand for MX in the chemical market decreased in the second quarter amid weaker demand for on-purpose MX amid new and upcoming capacity in the key China market.
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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.
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