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CHEME 4620: Chemical Process Design (Spring 2018): Prices & Suppliers

Chemicals and Feedstock Prices Sources & Strategies

Prices for raw materials depend upon the balance of supply and demand. If the demand goes up but the supply is the same, the price will go up and visa versa. The demand/supply balance can change seasonally or with market cycles. To understand what your raw materials may end up costing you, it is important to look at past prices and see what trends they follow. 

Where to find prices?

Collecting and storing data costs money so it is usually only done when there is a direct benefit. When thinking about where to find information, think about who would benefit from accessing this information and this might help you find sources. The more broadly a piece of information is useful, the more likely it will either be freely available or at a low cost. For example, corn is used by food manufacturers (corn syrup, corn meal, etc.), agricultural firms (feed for livestock), and biomass manufacturing firms (corn can be used to make ethanol). Because of the broad interest, you can find a variety of sources for corn prices. For chemicals that have a much more limited customer base, then it may be harder or more expensive to get prices. 


Cost of data Who collects it? How do they get it? Examples
Free or $ Government, NGOs, company press releases Surveys, legal requirements Energy Information Administration (EIA), UN (Comtrade), and International Labor Organization (ILO)


Free or $ Regulatory agencies and trading exchanges Reporting requirements  Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Census, Chicago Board of Trade, U.S. Futures Exchange
$$$ Trade associations Member surveys, news American Chemistry Council, PhRMA 
$$$$ Private research firms Price surveys, industry contacts ICIS 


If you need to contact a vendor or get an idea of what prices may be from a vendor's site, use one of the following resources to pull up chemical suppliers you may not have heard of.

Additional Sources - i.e. When all else fails...

Market Data from Exchanges

Some chemical prices can be found via market sources, such as commodity exchanges. Bloomberg and Eikon are two excellent sources for this kind of information. 

(Will post updated files here by January.)

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Next Best Thing: Price Sources


Sometimes you won't be able to get a sweet Excel file with all the price data you want on a clean weekly or monthly basis. Sometimes you have to go hunting, like a detective, to piece together what you can to get an idea of what the raw materials cost. One way is to search trade journals and chemical company press releases for notices of price changes.

A few great starting points for this type of research are:

One trick you can try is to use a historic price series (e.g. from ICIS Chemical Business Americas) and then use the economic indicators in Chemical Engineering to estimate and predict the prices in the intervening years.

For example, the multiplier for "producer prices, industrial chemicals" has 1982 being 100. If the multiplier for Sept. 1999 is 119.4 then Sept. 1999 prices were 19.4% higher than 1982 prices. By knowing the 1999 price or 1982 price one can determine approximate price in a given year.

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