Price and market trends: US phenol weakens with benzene

13 June 2014 10:43 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

The US phenol range for May has settled lower by 3.12 cents/lb ($69/tonne), tracking the drop in the May benzene contract amid prevailing weak phenol demand and a return to middling production rates, sources said on 3 June.

The increase took May phenol values to a new range of 80.83-85.28 cents/lb, as assessed by ICIS.

The May benzene contract previously settled at $4.57/gal, down 23 cents/gal from April.

Benzene heavily influences phenol price movement because it and refinery-grade propylene (RGP) are used to make phenol precursor cumene.

Meanwhile, the June benzene contract settled lower by 9 cents/gal late on 30 May following the recent decline in May spot prices, trade sources said. The settlement of $4.48/gal was in line with expectations because of improved supply positions stemming from Asian imports. The decline also represented the fourth consecutive monthly benzene contract drop.

During May, RGP softened by 5-6 cents/lb from 60.25 cents/lb at the beginning of the month, driven mostly by longer supply as US refiners focus on gasoline production, which creates more RGP as a byproduct.

In the phenol co-product acetone market, the monthly large-buyer barge contract recently fully settled lower by 1 cent/lb from April. Barge acetone is sold largely into the MMA market.

By Larry Terry