Appendix: Finding Chemical Pricing Data

UBC Library Publications

Finding this data can be very challenging. Companies typically want to keep pricing information secret (for competition reasons). The best way I have found to search for chemical pricing data is using market publications available in the UBC library as follows:

  1. Go to Texas A&M Chemical Pricing Database
  2. Enter a chemical name (i.e. Ethylene) or CAS number (Chemical Abstracts Services; can be found on Wikipedia), chick “EXECUTE QUERY”.
  3. Find a citation from “ICIS Chemical Business” and note the edition and page number (i.e. 2018, April 6; 19). Make sure the chemical name matches the one you are searching for.
  4. Go to UBC Library and type in “ICIS Chemical Business” into the search bar and search
  5. Click on the source by Factiva, Business Source Ultimate
  6. Click on “Browse Journal”. Find the issue of the journal from the list on the right.
  7. Find the specific article you found from the Texas A&M Database citation using the dates
  8. Once you find your article, click “UBC eLink”. This should take you to a new page where you can access the full text
  9. Search through the article for the chemical of interest’s price. In this case with ethylene, you should find a chart (not posted here for copyright reasons), but it would provide a range of prices from about $0.15 to $0.35 per pound. Taking an average of $0.25/lb, this works out to about $550/tonne.

This process is tedious and often takes some time, even for people experienced in this process. So don’t get discouraged when looking for this data and feel free to ask questions (through the discussion board, in tutorials or office hours, etc.).

* A special thanks to the Texas A&M University Library and specifically David Hubbard, the Science and Engineering Librarian, for giving us permission to post screenshots of the tool on their website in this book.


Import/Export Data

Another way of finding, or cross-referencing pricing data is using the UN Comtrade database. This database maintains statistics of import and export trade of goods between countries. For many products it will have a price and quantity, which can be used to get an estimate of chemical pricing. There are some caveats with this, sometimes prices may depend on geography, and sometimes products may not be shipped in a certain form, but if the quantities traded are large and specific it can provide a good initial estimate.

As a comparison let’s search for an ethylene price with this database:

  1. One the Comtrade homepage you can use the quick search to get started. For our ethylene comparison, we will search for ethylene in the year 2018, so we can compare to our number obtained from the ICIS Chemical Business market reports. For the dropdown menus, if you enter search terms, it will populate with suggestions. By entering “ethylene”, it will suggest “[271114 – Petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons; liquefied, ethylene, propylene, butylene and butadiene”. We can then adjust the year as well. In the end our search would be as follows:
    • “Show [Annual] [Exports] of [271114 – Petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons; liquefied, ethylene, propylene, butylene and butadiene]
      from [All] to [World] in the year [2018]”
  2. The database should show a list organized by reporter countries. Let’s search for the United States first assuming that is where our process of interest is. You may need to go to page 3 to find it. It should show $49,624,865 for 42,787,569 kg of substances. We can then convert this into about $1,160/tonne. This is higher than our other estimate, but we know it combines ethylene, propylene, butylene and butadiene, so is not as specific as our first reference. It can at least show a rough estimate to see if the prices are in the same range.

Another trade database for imports and exports out of India specifically is, although it will only show a first page of data for non-registered users.


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Foundations of Chemical and Biological Engineering I Copyright © 2020 by Jonathan Verrett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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