Cyclic Organic Crudes and Intermediates, and Organic Dyes and Pigments

SIC 2865

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing cyclic organic crudes and intermediates and organic dyes and pigments. Important products of this industry include (1) aromatic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, mixed xylenes, and naphthalene; (2) synthetic organic dyes; and (3) synthetic organic pigments.

Industry Snapshot

Organic chemicals contain carbon, are usually combustible, are mostly insoluble in water, have liquid or solid forms, and have relatively low melting points. Aromatics are included in a group called basic organics, which also includes aliphatics and methanol. These substances are obtained directly from raw materials, primarily crude oil and natural gas. Intermediates are often grouped with solvents and are made from basic chemicals for the purpose of making other chemicals and chemical products.

U.S. companies in the cyclic crudes and intermediates industry shipped $8.26 billion worth of products in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Almost 95 percent of these shipments consisted of cyclic (coal tar) intermediates, and the remaining 5 percent included tar, tar crudes, and tar pitches. In the dye and pigment manufacturing portion of this product class, firms shipped an estimated $2.14 billion worth of products in 2005. Organic dyes made up 35 percent of these shipments, and pigments and toners accounted for 65 percent. Industry output provided an important supply of base manufacturing material for pharmaceutical, dye, fuel, and agricultural sectors.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 50 petrochemical manufacturing plants employing 9,084 workers who collectively earned more than $873 million in 2008. The majority or 188,390 workers were employed at one of the 24 Texas plants that earned about $633 million. Additionally, there were 97 organic dye and pigment manufacturing plants, in which the bulk was in New Jersey with a workforce of 4,717 employees who earned over $288 million. The 30 cyclic crude and intermediate manufacturing plants added another 3,335 employees to the industry total that earned $286 million with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio each with 10 or more establishments.

Organization and Structure

Industrial organic chemicals are created from substances that contain carbon, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Although inorganic chemicals also may contain carbon, they are found within the earth's crust and derive from materials without animal or plant origins. The aromatics classified in this industry are distinguished from other organics by their closed-ring molecular structure. This structure allows them to be combined with other chemicals, including inorganics, to make a vast array of intermediate compounds. Intermediates are consumed by other industries for the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers.

The three primary aromatic chemicals used to create intermediates are benzene, xylene, and toluene. These three chemicals represent about 10 percent of U.S. industry output. Intermediates created using these base organics, however, account for an additional 70 percent of total production. Benzene, the simplest and most widely used aromatic, is combined with sulfuric acid and other chemicals to create many intermediates. Benzene intermediates are used to produce plastic resins, epoxy, nylon, polyurethanes, synthetic rubber, and detergents.

The most common derivative of benzene is ethyl benzene/styrene, which accounts for 50 percent of demand for this aromatic. Styrene is a major ingredient in plastics and synthetic rubber. Cumene/phenol and cyclohexane represented 21 and 14 percent, respectively, of benzene-derivative sales. Phenol is used to produce adhesives and high-grade plastics and epoxies. Other major intermediates in this category include nitrobenzene/aniline (6 percent), alkybenzene (2 percent), and chlorobenzene (2 percent).

Xylene is primarily utilized as a gasoline additive and a solvent. It is separated into three commercial substances: paraxylene, orthoxylene, and metaxylene. Paraxylene derivatives are used to make polyester fiber and films, beverage bottles, and specialty engineering resins. Orthoxylene is required to make intermediates that can be utilized in the production of plasticizers (plastic additives) and polyester resins. Metaxylene has limited uses in the manufacture of coatings and plastics.

The last primary aromatic chemical is toluene. This aromatic is used to create benzene. End markets for toluene also include manufacturers of adhesives, solvents, photographic film, textiles, pharmaceuticals, inks, and coatings.

Besides aromatics and their intermediate offspring, organic dyes and pigments each make up about 8 percent of industry sales. Tar and pitch compounds round out industry offerings, capturing 4 percent of sales revenue. Two-thirds of dye and pigment production was consumed by textile industries. Dyes are typically obtained from petroleum through lengthy chemical processes and must conform to rigid safety standards before they can be used to color food, clothing, and other goods.

Background and Development

William Henry Perkin (1838-1907), an Englishman and the father of the organic chemical industry, was the first chemist to synthesize an organic chemical for commercial use. In 1856 he accidentally created mauve, a synthetic dye, from a piece of coal tar. Friedrich Kekule von Stradonitz (1829-1896) was the first to explain Perkin's invention when he proposed his breakthrough theory of the benzene ring in 1865. During the remainder of the nineteenth century, German chemists developed most of the dye classes and many of the individual dyes that were still being used in the early twenty-first century.

The advancement of aromatics, intermediates, and dyes in the wake of Kekule's discovery were considered relatively unimportant outside of Germany. It wasn't until World War I that Great Britain, France, and the United States frantically developed an organic chemical industry. World War II also brought massive industry expansion, especially as producers learned to derive aromatics from petroleum rather than coal tar. By the end of World War II, the United States was the major global supplier of aromatics and intermediates. Industry growth was rampant during the postwar U.S. economic expansion.

The aromatic, intermediate, and synthetic dye industry grew at a healthy rate of 5 percent per year between 1982 and 1990. Although this reflected a decline in growth rates compared to the 1960s and 1970s, it exceeded gains achieved by most other U.S. manufacturing sectors. Sales rose from $7.1 billion in 1982 to $10.9 billion by 1990. The demand for new high-performance intermediates, particularly by pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors, drove this sales growth.

In addition to revenue gains, producers also benefited from increases in productivity and the development of new processing techniques during the decade. Productivity gains of approximately 4 percent per year during the 1980s were the result of massive capital investments in automation and information systems. These investments allowed manufacturers to eliminate both production workers and managers. Indeed, as production volume steadily rose throughout the 1980s, industry employment gradually shrank. The workforce declined from more than 27,000 in the early 1980s to about 23,000 by the early 1990s. In addition to cutting labor costs, many manufacturers were able to reduce productions costs through advanced processing techniques.

Despite massive capital investments surpassing $43 billion during the 1980s, productivity and manufacturing gains were substantially offset by changing dynamics in the global organic chemical industry. Two primary factors stunting profit growth in the 1980s and demand into the 1990s were increased foreign competition and environmental regulations. In addition, regulatory intervention in important end markets, such as pharmaceuticals, was hindering competitors. Also hurting industry participants in the early 1990s was a U.S. and global economic recession. Overcapacity, a result of slower-than-expected growth in the early 1990s, was causing severe price suppression and reduced profits for most companies. Even as the United States experienced a modest recovery in 1992 and 1993, overseas markets remained flat.

One reason for the instability of the industry was the inability to predict the supply and demand for organic materials. For example, benzene, styrene, and mixed xylenes saturated the market from July through December 1996, and cyclohexane and phenol were not being produced rapidly enough to meet demand. Demand for some organic products, such as toluene, fluctuated from year to year, making it difficult to gage production. For example, demand in 2001 was 30.8 million metric tons. Benzene operating rates dropped from 72.0 percent in 2000 to 56.9 percent in 2001 due to weak demand for all major derivatives.

In 1992 chemicals classified in this industry constituted 20 percent of the $53 billion U.S. industrial organic chemical industry, which also includes gum and wood chemicals and industrial organics not elsewhere classified. Industrial organic chemicals, in turn, represented 66 percent of the overall chemical industry, which includes inorganic and agricultural chemicals. The encompassing chemical and related products industry represented a $230 billion business, of which organics accounted for about one-third. Many products and compounds generated in the fine chemicals industry, however, are used to produce other chemicals and related goods.

In the early 1990s, 20 percent, or about $2.2 billion, of the $11.0 billion worth of aromatic, intermediate, and synthetic dye output was consumed by manufacturers within the industry to produce other fine chemicals. For example, an aromatics producer might sell benzene to a company that makes the intermediate chlorobenzene. Plastics materials and resin manufacturers consumed 13 percent of U.S. production, as did the organic synthetic fiber industry. Although they each accounted for less than 3 percent of the fragmented market, other major customers included petroleum refiners, pharmaceutical companies, paint and coating manufacturers, and semiconductor producers. Exports made up 13 percent of industry shipments during the early 1990s.

During the mid-1990s, aromatic, intermediate, and dye producers continued to suffer from downward price pressures due to oversupply. For example, although the demand for styrene grew about 13 percent between 1990 and 1993, excess production capacity in the United States crushed price growth in that segment. Many producers of benzene derivatives were experiencing a similar scenario, as were producers of xylenes. Only phenol suppliers dodged the burden of oversupply. In 1993 U.S. prices and demand recovered slightly, but primary global markets remained recessed.

Besides slack markets, increasingly stringent environmental regulations also took their toll in the mid-1990s. A string of new rules implemented during the 1980s to cap hazardous waste emissions were heavily impacting manufacturers. The Clinton administration supported efforts to reduce waste from this high-polluting industry. The Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxic Inventory Release (TIR) program, the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and voluntary Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) programs were just a few of the initiatives that cost the industry millions of dollars during the mid-1990s.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for most intermediate and dye producers in the mid-1990s was growing foreign competition. Although the European Community, Japan, and the United States remained the primary global suppliers for this industry, emerging industrial nations posed a real threat to their dominance. Eastern Asian nations, excluding Japan, were capturing market share, as were producers in South America, Eastern Europe, India, and other developing regions.

Access to cheap labor and freedom from strict environmental regulations helped manufacturers in these nations to advance rapidly in the mid-1990s. For example, the average Chinese worker cost a company $1,000 per year in 1992. By contrast, the average U.S. aromatic production worker received more than $35,000 in salary alone. As a result, dye imports to the United States almost doubled between 1981 and 1991 as the total value of U.S. dye production fell. Although intermediates had fared much better than dyes, U.S. global organic market share diminished from 30 to 25 percent between 1988 and 1992.

Crude industry sales surged by about 10 percent from 1992 to 1997. Prices declined in the early 1990s because of large capacity additions that came into effect. During the early 1990s, temporary price upswings caused by the war in the Persian Gulf were the only relief periods for the industry. Sales improved again by 1994 and into 1995 as prices and margins began to rise. This period was the industry's best financial performance since the late 1980s. In 1997 varying levels of growth were observed in all major segments of the industry.

The synthetic organic dye industry also experienced growth from 1992 to 1997, with an increase in shipments of about 25 percent; the pigment portion declined about 20 percent during the same period.

Benzine demand remained strong in the mid-2000s because of tight supplies and the rising cost of crude oil. Total demand in 2006 was 42 million metric tons. Export demand for derivatives, especially to Europe, was up during this time, and global capacity and demand was expected to grow through 2010. Leading uses for benzene include ethylbenzene, demanding 53 percent of all benzene produced; cumene, at 19 percent; cyclohexane, at 13 percent; nitrobenzene, at 7 percent; alkylbenzene, at 3 percent; and other uses, 5 percent. The top North American benzene producers in 2006 included ExxonMobil, Lyondell Chemical, BP Chemicals, Dow Chemical, and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

Demand for cyclohexane for 2007 was estimated at 15.5 million pounds, where it has held steady since the mid-1990s. Leading demand for cyclohexane was in boiled water treatment at 55 percent, and in rubber chemicals at 30 percent.

Total demand for toluene in 2003 was 15 million metric tons. Total demand was expected to grow 2.5 percent per year, reaching 16.4 million metric tons by the mid-2000s. Leading end uses for toluene included benzene, at 35 percent; xylenes, at 30 percent; solvents, at 10 percent; toluene diisocyanate, at 10 percent; gasoline blending, at 5 percent; and other uses demanding the remaining 10 percent. Major U.S. toluene producers included ExxonMobil Chemical, BP Chemcicals, Sunoco Chemical, and Chevron Phillips Chemicals.

Total global demand for xylenes stood at 19.5 million metric tons by 2002. End uses of mixed xylenes included para-xylene, 80 percent; ortho-xylene, 11 percent; gasoline, 1 percent; and solvents demanding the remaining 8 percent. From 1998 to 2002, para-xylene margins were on the decline, until early 2003 when improved demand and the tightening of supply due to the shutdown of a number of plants caused prices to rise. Demand was expected grow at a rate of 8 to 10 percent a year through 2007, largely due to increased demand in the polyester segment.

Styrene demand and prices improved in 2002, following a year in which demand for styrene shrank for the first time in 20 years. Worldwide demand for styrene was 23 million metric tons in 2003. Styrene was expected to grow at a rate of 3.5 to 4.0 percent per year, reaching 25 million metric tons in the mid-2000s. Uses included propylene styrene, 54 percent; SB rubber and latex, 9 percent; unsaturated polyester resins, 5 percent; expandable propylene styrene, 12 percent; acrylontrile butadiene styrene, 16 percent; and other uses, 4 percent.

In 2004 the U.S. demand for phenol totaled 7.5 million metric tons, up from about 7.0 million metric tons in 2003. Top uses included bisphenol-A, 40 percent; phenolic resins, 28 percent; polyphenylene oxide, 3 percent; alkylphenols, 5 percent; akylphenol, 5 percent; nylon/KA oil, 12 percent; aniline, 2 percent; and other, 10 percent.

Dyes and Pigments.
After experiencing zero growth in the early 2000s, global demand for organic pigments and dyes is expected to reach $10.6 billion in 2008, with economic expansion and increased industrialization placing the Asia/Pacific market in the lead at a predicted $3.7 billion, just over North America's $3.6 billion. To remain competitive in the global markets of the 2000s, U.S. producers have been forced to focus their efforts on the development of high-tech, high-margin specialty intermediates and dyes. Consumers of large-volume, low-tech, commodity-like aromatics, intermediates, and dyes will continue to seek low-cost producers in emerging nations.

Together, the organic dye and pigment manufacturing and cyclic crude and intermediate manufacturing industries shipped $10.4 billion worth of products in 2005, compared to $8.36 billion in 2002. Those industries combined with gum and wood chemical manufacturing and ethyl alcohol manufacturing make up the U.S. Census Bureau's organic chemical manufacturing category. This larger industry employed 74,347 workers in 2005, down from 88,801 in 2002.

Current Conditions

Despite the stagnant economic conditions in 2008 and 2009, worldwide petrochemical demand for basic petrochemicals and plastics was expected to reach some 35 million to 40 million tons per year between 2010 and 2015, in contrast to demand of roughly 20 million tons between 2000 and 2005.

As the economy struggled, demand in the fine chemicals industry struggled as well forcing industry leader, Chemtura Corporation into bankruptcy protection from which it emerged in November 2010 following 18 long months of reorganization. Looking ahead, the company viewed petroleum additives as one area of growth since "�demand for lower emissions and higher mileage play to the strengths of petroleum additives that provide e motor oil detergency, friction modification and corrosion," Robert Westervelt wrote in Chemical Week, in November 2010.

Global styrene demand averaged about 3.1 percent annually from 2002 through 2007, and was projected to slow from 2007 to 2012 by 2.2 percent. North America, the major exporter of styrene; however, with one plant opening in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and another in Shuaiba, Kuwait in early 2009, North America styrene exports were slated to decrease by 2011. The Mideast expansion will result in a global oversupply by 2013. This news prompted widespread restructuring and some plant closings.

Benzene climbed three percent in 2007 to 45 million metric tons. Global capacity and production was expected to increase by an estimated 2.3 million metric tons in 2008, however, profit margins fell as crude oil costs rose. Still, demand for benzene showed no sign of waning and was projected to increase by 4.5 million metric tons between 2008 and 2012.

Ethylene demand was projected to increase five percent compared to the 115 million tons produced in 2010, while worldwide capacity will increase about 4.5 percent between 2011 and 2012 to an estimated 140 million metric tons. As the global economy rebounds, propylene was also expected to grow five percent to 73.5 million tons. Production was projected to outperform demand in the majority of petrochemical products as the Mideast and China producers come online in 2011.

Industry Leaders

The fine chemicals industry is consolidated in comparison to most other U.S. manufacturing industries. In the mid-2000s, the largest company in the industry was Chemtura Corporation of Middlebury, Connecticut, formed by a merger between the former industry leader, Crompton Corporation, and Great Lakes Chemical. It had net sales in 2006 of $3.72 billion and more than 6,200 employees. Clariant Corp. of Charlotte, North Carolina, is owned by the Swiss company Clariant, which had sales of approximately $6.85 billion in 2006. Warner-Jenkinson Co. of St. Louis, Missouri, is owned by Sentient Technologies Corporation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sentient Technologies had sales of $1.1 billion in 2006. Major aromatics and intermediates producers primarily active in other industries included ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Shell, Occidental Petroleum, BP, and Lyondell Petrochemical.

Chemtura Corporation reported revenues of $3.54 billion in 2008 before plummeting to $2.54 billion in 2009 with 4,400 employees. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010. Clariant AG posted revenues of $6.37 billion in 2009, in which Clariant Corp. constitutes about 25 percent of total revenues. Clariant Corp. operates about 25 manufacturing facilities and service centers throughout North America with 1,200 employees. Warner-Jenkinson Co.'s parent, Sentient Technologies reported revenues of $1.2 billion in 2009.


The organic dye and pigment manufacturing and cyclic crude and intermediate manufacturing industries, combined with gum and wood chemical manufacturing and ethyl alcohol manufacturing, make up the U.S. Census Bureau's organic chemical manufacturing category. This larger industry employed 74,347 workers in 2005, down from 88,801 in 2002. Of the total number of employees, 44,872 worked in production in 2005 and earned an average hourly wage of $27.82.

America and the World

In the early 1990s, with sales of about $11 billion per year, U.S. producers accounted for roughly 25 percent of global fine chemicals output. The European Community met 40 percent of worldwide demand, and Japan represented 20 percent of production. Like the United States, which shipped $1.4 billion of its output overseas in 1992, Japan and the European Community were major chemical exporters within the global marketplace. These three regions also represented most of the world's chemical consumption.

By the mid-1990s, however, market share held by all major producers was steadily eroding. For example, in 1993 Eastern European and South American manufacturers generated approximately $2 billion and $1 billion worth of product, respectively. At the same time, they were striving to boost exports. Also, East Asia, which sold $2 billion to $3 billion of aromatics and intermediates in 1992, was growing its output by 8 to 10 percent per year.

Two of the fastest-growing export nations were China and India. China designated the petrochemical industry (including cyclic intermediates and all related manufactures) as one of four "pillar" industries for its Ninth Five-Year Plan ending in 2000; however, the Asian economic crisis slowed China's ambitions in fine chemicals, as did severe flooding, high unemployment, a weakening of domestic demand for these products, and extensive smuggling into China. South Korea experienced heavy losses in this industry into 1998 and began seeking foreign investment. By 2001, low demand and economic instability severely degraded the Asian aromatics industry. The events of September 11, 2001, caused further distress to the industry, with fear of a worldwide recession.

In the mid-2000s, pharma fine chemical manufacturers in India experienced rapid growth, topping 30 percent in 2006, with predictions of matching that in 2007. Cost-cutting measures by pharmaceutical companies, the rising costs of R&D, efforts to contain health care costs, and the rising number of drugs with expiring patents in the U.S. continued to feed the industry in India as companies close domestic facilities and transfer production to companies in India.

Another trend taking place in the early 1990s was the movement of U.S. production facilities overseas. Dow Chemical, for example, received a license in 1992 to build a polystyrene plant at Map Ta Phut, Thailand. This plant would be its fifth in that country. Many other producers were moving production to Mexico, Singapore, India, and other developing regions. By the late 1990s major restructuring, downsizing, and merging were occurring in Asia (to absorb financially stressed joint ventures) and in countries like Canada, where industrial giants are consolidating to fund new plants to produce fuels additives, among other products.

In the pigment industry in the early 2000s, prices remained depressed because of oversupplies and environmental regulations. However, worldwide demand for color pigments, including organic, inorganic, and specialty types, was predicted to increase by 4.4% per year to reach $3.8 billion in 2011. Demand was expected to grow most significantly in China, India, and Southeast Asia. Eastern Europe was experiencing serious shortages of pigments, so demand was increasing there, although the beginning base for growth was much smaller than in Asia. Organic pigments were expected to grow faster than inorganic pigments, and inorganics based on heavy metals such as cadmium and chromium were expected to be withdrawn almost entirely from the marketplace because of their high environmental risk.

Research and Technology

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the industry spent billions of dollars attempting to raise productivity through automation and information systems, to increase capacity, and to comply with environmental laws. By the mid-1990s and into the 2000s, new product research and development were the primary areas of investment focus. A survey by the Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association found that companies intended to invest a mean average of sales of 8 percent into R&D through 2007, up from 6.5 percent in 2005. The same survey found that 22 percent of companies intend to invest more than 10 percent of revenues into R&D in 2007, up from 13 percent in 2005.

Intermediate and dye manufacturers developed high-tech molecules and compounds to open new markets and battle foreign commodity producers. For example, advances in intermediates used to make pharmaceuticals allowed the savviest producers to reap significant rewards. Also in demand were high-performance intermediates that could be used to make cleaner fuel additives, new resins and fibers, better rubber, and environmentally friendly chemicals.

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News and information about Cyclic Organic Crudes and Intermediates, and Organic Dyes and Pigments

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