The spread between benzene and feedstock naphtha narrowed by US$0.88/mt day-on-day to an eight-and-a-half month low of US$309.25/mt Thursday, as surges in the feedstock naphtha market outpaced that of benzene, Platts data showed. The benzene-naphtha spread was last lower on October 17, when it was assessed by Platts at US$287/mt. Asian benzene was assessed at US$1187/mt FOB Korea Thursday, up US$3/mt day-on-day and up US$6.50/mt from a week earlier. Meanwhile, naphtha rose by US$3.87/mt on the day and up by US$25.12/mt from a week earlier to US$877.75/mt CFR Japan Thursday. Asian benzene producers typically need benzene to be US$150/mt higher than naphtha to break even.
The demand-supply of benzene in Asia was long on the back of extended shutdown of downstream styrene monomer plant in Korea. Lotte Chemical's SM plant was shut unexpectedly June 10 due to technical problems and the company said at that time that the shutdown would last for more than 10 days. Last week, a source close to the company said it was hoping to restart the unit by the end of June, but sources said on Tuesday that the outage is expected to last until July 9-10.