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Insight | Time:Jan 22 2018 10:29AM
South Korea's benzene export analysis in 2017
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South Korea's benzene exports totaled 2.636 million tons in 2017, up 28.9% from 2.045 million tons in 2016. The increment was mainly contributed by higher output and strong demand from China.

Operating rate of aromatics plants, particularly TDP units, remained high in 2017. Most output increment was shipped to China, due to speculative buying and strong demand in Chinese market.

China has become the biggest buyer of South Korean benzene. In 2017, exports to China were much higher than to other destinations.

While in the fourth quarter of 2017, USGC benzene prices surged above $1,150/mt on supply shortage, leaving the arbitrage windows from South Korea to US and Europe opened. Exports to USGC increased in January and December of 2017, while to China decreased slightly.

According to Korea Customs Service, South Korea's benzene exports to China totaled 1.443 million tons in 2017, accounting for about 55% of total exports. However, exports to US fell about 33% year on year. Exports to Taiwan and Japan increased apparently.

In 2018, many benzene producers will undertake maintenance in March-July. Production loss is estimated at 230kt in the first half of 2018. For the second half year, maintenances will be mainly in July, October, and November. The production loss is expected to be around 115kt.

Compared with previous years, the production loss due to maintenance in 2018 is within rational range. Given favorable cash flow of TDP unit, benzene exports of South Korea will high. Supply tightness will ease gradually in US.

In China, most large refineries with aromatic plants are expected to start in 2019-2020. However, demand in Chinese market will be firm on capacity expansion in downstream derivatives, so, China will still be the major destination. China has become the biggest benzene producer and consumer, and China's voice in global benzene market will strengthen.
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