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Published: April 2011
Essentially all world cumene is consumed for the production of phenol and acetone. As a result, demand for cumene is strongly tied to the phenol market. Trade in cumene accounts for only 4% of world production. The largest exporters of cumene are the United States (to Germany) and Japan (to the Republic of Korea). Taiwan also imports large volumes of cumene for phenol production.
As of early 2011, the U.S. cumene market was tight—primarily as a result of a shortage of feedstock propylene. Scheduled plant maintenance by several large cumene manufacturers was also planned for early to mid-2011. Because of the cumene shortages, phenol and acetone plant operating rates have been reduced significantly, which in turn has restricted phenol exports to Europe and higher-demand regions such as Asia and South America.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of cumene:
Increased demand for bisphenol A and phenolic resins will result in strong demand for phenol, particularly in Asia (excluding Japan). As a result, consumption of cumene for phenol is forecast to grow at approximately 8% per year in the region. China alone is expected to add over a million metric tons of cumene capacity during 2011–2015 (with most capacity coming onstream in 2013) to supply its phenol/acetone plants that are slated to come onstream during that period.
Overall, worldwide cumene consumption for the production of phenol/acetone is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of about 4.5% during 2010–2015.