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Global benzene demand

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to a new report from IHS Chemical, global demand for benzene increased to 43.7 million t last year, an increase of 2.8% on 2012. Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon and one of the primary chemical building blocks for the petrochemical industry. Over the next five years, the report says that the global demand for benzene is expected to grow by nearly 3% a year to reach 50 million t by 2018.

Asian benefits

Consumers of benzene in several countries are receiving benefits from the strong recovery in Asia, and this is particular of the regions that are domestically short on benzene but do have an existing benzene derivative capacity base and an advantaged energy cost position. These regions have imported benzene from Asia and exported benzene derivatives.

Benzene, the past and the future

Traditionally, benzene is produced as a byproduct of coke production within the steel industry but today, benzene is mainly produced as a byproduct of refinery and steam cracker operations. Since benzene is primarily produced as a byproduct during gasoline, ethylene and paraxylene production, the supply is driven by demand of these products rather than by the demand for benzene itself. Benzene is used primarily for the production of styrene, cumene, phenol, cyclohexane, nitrobenzene and other industrial chemicals.

Over the last few years, benzene capacity has increased in Asia and the Middle East and this trend is expected to continue, as these regions are primarily where naphtha crackers and refineries are being built. However, some light feed crackers are being planned in the US to leverage advanced ethane and natural gas from the shale revolution.


Chris McCloskey, director of aromatics at IHS Chemical and one of the report’s principal authors said, ‘while the news for benzene demand was good from a global perspective, demand strength for benzene was not spread evenly across the globe and the high growth regions of Asia carried the other regions to achieve the positive showing. In fact while the world as a whole and the high growth regions of Asia and the Middle East have recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis, other regions are still in the process of making structural changes and have not yet recovered to pre crisis demand levels.

‘Benzene is an important block chemical for the petrochemical industry, its derivatives are used broadly in the construction, automotive, apparel, appliance, computer, electronics, durable and non-durable goods, packaging and other industries to make our lives easier, more productive and more comfortable. As a result, its growth rate is a reflection of the health of the general economy.’

McClosky continues, ‘as developing countries in Asia continue to make swift progress in increasing living standards for their sizable populations, market development, construction and demand growth for benzene and its numerous derivatives will continue at a strong pace. The more mature markets of North America and West Europe will benefit from Asian growth by using their existing capacity base to process excess benzene from Asia and South America into benzene derivatives and in the case of North America, leveraging its advantaged energy cost position. The Middle East benefits from Asian growth by being a low cost provider of raw materials, including naphtha for cracking and reforming, and as an exporter of benzene and derivatives to Atlantic and Pacific Basins.’

Adapted from a press release by Claira Lloyd.

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