HOUSTON (ICIS)--US spot benzene prices closed the week ended 21 April more or less flat from the previous Friday, although volatility was observed during the week. Prices softened at the start of the week owing to thin liquidity, but the market recouped its losses in the second half of the week as greater activity was seen in the spot market.
The arbitrage window between Asia and the US remains closed, although the spread between the two regions widened owing to a dip in Asian benzene prices. Sources commented that material from Reliance’s new 500,000 tonnes/year benzene plant in Jamnagar, India could start to load as early as late April, adding that the start-up of the new plant in conjunction with a reduced volumes of exports from Asia to the US could result in lengthening supplies in the region.
Participants anticipate stronger benzene consumption as several major US styrene producers are starting to come back on-line following shut downs.
Americas Styrenics (AmSty) recently restarted its 950,000 tonnes/year styrene plant in Saint James, Louisiana at the start of the month. In addition, INEOS Styrolution is expected to resume producton at its 450,000 tonnes/year styrene plant in Texas City, Texas before the start of May.
Meanwhile, the 1.1m tonnes/year styrene facility at the Carville Styrenics Complex in Cosmar, Louisiana is expected to continue to operate at around half of capacity into the summer.
The US benzene market remains in a narrowing contango, with May trading at a premium of 0.5-1.0 cents/gal to April during most of the week. June cargoes, meanwhile, traded at par or at a discount of 1-4 cents/gal from May.US benzene was assessed on Friday at $2.69-2.74/gal DDP (delivered, duty paid), compared to $2.70-2.75/gal DDP at last week's close.
Major US benzene producers include ExxonMobil, Flint Hills Resources, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, Shell and Phillips 66.