Price and market trends: US phenol contracts rise with benzene

04 October 2013 09:34 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Prices gain in line with feedstock benzene, despite ample supply and weak demand

The US cumene contract range for September settled up by 2 cents/lb ($44/tonne, €33/tonne) from August, in line with the sharply higher September benzene contract.

The increase took the cumene contract to a new contract range of 64-65 cents/lb, despite ample supply and continued soft downstream phenol demand.

Feedstock refinery-grade propylene (RGP) was being seen weaker by 2-3 cents/lb from one month ago.

Major US cumene producers include Citgo, Flint Hills Resources, Axiall, Marathon, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Shell Chemical.

The US phenol contract range for September settled up on 24 September. The new phenol contract settled up by 3.12 cents/lb ($69/tonne, €51/tonne) from August, moving the September range to 81.59-86.04 cents/lb, despite ample supply and broadly weak demand.

The US phenol market was soft, with phenol operating rates still heard mostly in the range of 65-70%. Although some sources indicated some recent volatility in operating rates, no market consensus has been reached on that point.

The September benzene contract previously increased by 23 cents/gal from August, stemming from higher benzene spot prices ahead of planned maintenance outages.

However, current benzene spot prices are slightly below the September contract of $4.40/gal, which may portend a decline in the October benzene contract.

In the US truck acetone market, values continued largely steady from the first half of the month, sources said.

Stable acetone market conditions and the absence of truck price-hike initiatives suggest September prices will roll over from August, though some unconfirmed weakness at the bottom of the posted truck range was heard.

In the large-buyer acetone market, September barge talks were well underway, with downward pressure from weaker refinery-grade propylene (RGP), which was being seen weaker by 2-3 cents/lb from one month ago. So far, only one buy-side settlement had been confirmed at a slight reduction.

US phenol producers include Axiall, Dow Chemical, Haverhill Chemical, Honeywell, INEOS Phenol and Shell Chemical.

By Larry Terry