Source: ECN


Butadiene is the primary raw material for synthetic rubbers. Demand is forecast to rise steadily and prices have risen sharply


North America is the world's largest importer of butadiene and the major destination for European exports. According to CMAI consultancy the US will import 291 000 tonne this year, 75-80% of that from Europe. CMAI said the figure was 239 000 tonne in 1999, 145 000 tonne of that from Europe.

Demand growth from 1999 to 2000 is forecast at 5.3% in Europe and 5.6% globally. Synthetic rubber took 64% of the total demand for butadiene last year and CMAI reports that demand for butadiene in SBR and PBR will grow by over 800 000 tonne in the period 1998-2004. World consumption of butadiene into SBR will grow from just over 2.4m tonne in 2000 to over 2.7m tonne in 2004 while PBR will consume 2.2m tonne of global butadiene this year reaching nearly 2.6m tonne in 2004. Global demand growth rates are expected to average 3.9%/year until 2004.



Butadiene is the primary raw material for the manufacture of synthetic rubbers - styrene butadiene (SBR), polybutadiene (PBR), chloroprene and nitrile. SBR is the largest end-user and accounts for 31% of global butadiene demand, followed by PBR at 28%. It is also used to make other elastomers such as styrene-butadiene latex, polymers and plastics such as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) resins. Butadiene is also a chemical intermediate to produce adiponitrile which is then converted to hexamethylenediamine (HMDA), a key ingredient in the manufacture of nylon 6,6.


The majority of butadiene is extracted from steam crackers, although it can also be produced by the dehydrogenation of butenes when economics allow.

Butadiene is extracted from the C4 cracker stream by extractive distillation where it is dissolved in an aqueous solution of a solvent and withdrawn from the bottom of a distillation column. In a second column, butadiene is separated from the solvent before final purification. The feedstock used to make ethylene determines the relative yield of butadiene. The heavier the feedstock the higher the butadiene production.

Health and safety

Butadiene is a highly flammable and reactive liquid/gas and is suspected to be a human carcinogen. Exposure to 1,3-butadiene gas can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, while breathing the vapour can cause sleepiness and lightheadedness.


European prices have risen consistently from E230/tonne in Q2 1999 to the current Q4 contract level at E590/tonne, an E80/tonne rise on the previous quarter to reflect high demand and limited availability. In the US, producers were successful in implementing a 2 cent/lb rise for October, lifting the contract price to 28 cent/lb.


The current tight supply in Europe and the US is forecast to continue through 2001 and beyond, with global operating rates (excluding eastern Europe) averaging over 90%. World demand will outpace the rate of capacity additions, pushing operating rates steadily higher. The fastest demand growth will come from southeast Asia and the subcontinent of India, while northeast Asia will become the largest consuming region of refined butadiene when it passes North America in 2000. New capacity is being added at a rate of 2.5%/year and 410 000 tonne/year of additional production will start up in China, Taiwan and Indonesia by 2004. Net trade will remain relatively constant at about 500 000 tonne during 2000 but a surge in trade to North America in 2001-02 will push net trade over 600 000 tonne.

North America is adding new ethylene capacity during 2000-03 such that idled butadiene extraction capacity must be restarted. A new 408 000 tonne/year extraction unit is planned by Shell/BASF/AtoFina at Port Arthur, Texas, to start up in early 2003, while Huntsman plans to add 90 000 tonne/year to its Port Neches facility.


Producer Location Capacity
AP Feyzin Feyzin, France 80 000
Arpechim Pitesti, Romania 65 000
AtoFina Gonfreville, France 60 000
BASF Mannheim, Germany 10 000
Borealis Sines, Portugal 45 000
Porvoo, Finland 25 000
BP Grangemouth, UK 75 000
BSL Bohlen, Germany 45 000
Dow Terneuzen, 170 000
DSM Geleen, Netherlands 120 000
Elenac Wesseling, Germany 170 000
EniChem Ravenna, Italy 130 000
Brindisi, Italy 120 000
Erdolchemie Cologne, Germany 245 000
ExxonMobil ND de Gravenchon, 80 000
FSK Zrenjanin, Yugoslavia 45 000
Huntsman ICI Wilton, UK 100 000
Kaucuk Kralupy, 80 000
Czech Republic
Marghera Porto Marghera, Italy 65 000
MZRiP Plock, Poland 40 000
Naphtachimie Lavera, France 120 000
Neftochim Burgas, Bulgaria 70 000
OMV Schwechat, Austria 50 000
Oxeno Marl, Germany 145 000
Petro Borzesti Borzesti, Romania 100 000
Repsol Puertollano, Spain 32 000
Tarragona, Spain 20 000
Shell Moerdijk, 115 000
Berre, France 80 000
BP Chocolate Bayou, 180 000
ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, 380 000
Baytown, Texas 330 000
Huntsman Port Neches, Texas 925 000
Equistar Channelview, Texas 855 000
Chocolate Bayou, 135 000
Corpus Christi, 210 000
Shell Deer Park, Texas 300 000
Norco, Louisiana 575 000
Texas Houston, Texas 875 000

Source: CMAI/ECN