The market research institute Ceresana expects a further continuous increase of global demand for benzene. Until 2021, market volume will rise by more than 7 million tonnes; revenues generated with benzene are projected to amount to more than US$69 billion that year. Massive capacity expansions planned by manufacturers of benzene and its downstream products in the Middle East/Africa and Asia-Pacific are of crucial importance for the development of the global market for benzene.
Benzene producers in the Middle East and Africa are likely to significantly increase their share of worldwide benzene production. Ceresana expects the world market share of these regions to increase by up to 4 percentage points. As demand in these regions is increasing less dynamically than production, a large part of Middle Eastern/ African benzene output is directed to the world market. This is putting pressure on producers in Western Europe and North America. We forecast production of benzene in the latter two regions to stagnate.
Asia-Pacific will continue to dominate the benzene market and will account for almost half of global demand. China became the worldwide largest consumer of benzene, followed by the USA, in 2013. Even though growth rates will not be in the double-digit range in the foreseeable future, China will remain the growth motor for global benzene consumption. Growth impulses originate in the packaging and electronics industries as well as the automotive sector.
Benzene is a colorless, pleasant-smelling liquid that is mainly obtained as by-product in steam crackers or catalytic refining or is manufactured directly from toluene. Due to the shale gas boom, steam crackers in North America, the USA in particular, are increasingly using ethane rather than naphtha as feedstock. The result is a falling yield of benzene in these crackers. Accordingly, this development has been contributing to the reduction of benzene output in North America.
Benzene is needed as a precursor for the chemical synthesis of many compounds, mainly ethylbenzene, cumene, cyclohexane, nitrobenzene, and alkylbenzene. The most important consumers of benzene are manufacturers of ethylbenzene, who process more than half of total global consumption. Ethylbenzene is primarily used to produce styrene, which is in turn mainly processed to polystyrene and EPS. Ceresana expects producers of ethylbenzene to continue to expand their share of total demand for benzene until 2021.
The production of cumene is the second largest sales market for benzene, followed by cyclohexane. Production of these intermediates accounts for approx. one fifth and one tenth of global demand for benzene respectively. Cumene is mainly used to manufacture phenol and acetone, and is therefore also a precursor for bisphenol A, phenolic resins, caprolactam, and methyl methacrylate. Cyclohexane is primarily used in the production of nylon fibers, which are processed into textiles and engineering plastics. Other applications for benzene are nitrobenzene used to manufacture aniline and alkylbenzene that is utilized as detergent.