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.
Consider the cost of the data, who collects that data, and how they collect data
Free or $: Government, NGOs, company press releases - Collected via surveys or legal reporting requirements. Examples: Energy Information Administration (EIA), UN (Comtrade), and International Labor Organization.
Free or $: Regulatory agencies and trading exchanges - Collected via reporting requirements. Examples: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Census, Chicago Board of Trade, and U.S. Futures Exchange
$$$: Trade associations - Collected via member surveys and news. Examples: American Chemistry Council and PhRMA
$$$$: Private research firms - Collected via price surveys and industry contacts. Example: ICIS
Additional Sources - i.e. When all else fails...
- BLS Producer Price IndexPPI data will cover commodities, such as energy materials, pharmaceuticals, and minerals.
- CEIC Data ManagerCEIC Data contains economic, industrial and financial time-series data. Our Global Database offers unprecedented coverage of 221 countries in Asia, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas. EIC also offers 18 macro-economic concepts, and 1,400,000 time series. Data comes from analysts on the ground and the prime national and regional statistical agencies and major industrial data issuing organizations of each country covered. The CEIC Data Manager provides access to the entire CEIC database from within the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet application. Times-series can be directly retrieved from the database and imported into Excel for quick analysis.
- USDA Agricultural Prices SummaryPrices and statistics of corn, soybeans, and other agricultural products. See also http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/
- USGS National Minerals Information CenterStatistics, prices, and related information on the worldwide supply of, demand for, and flow of minerals.
- UN ComtradeFree access to detailed global trade data. UN Comtrade is a repository of official international trade statistics and relevant analytical tables.
- Sigma-AldrigeLists prices for thousands of chemicals, albeit in very small amounts. You will need to extrapolate the price to get a figure that could be used in designing a chemical plant or process. Bear in mind, prices you estimate with small batch sizes could be very different than the bulk prices so the margin of error is higher.
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.
- SciFinder-nIndexes over 100 years of chemistry literature. Search by chemical structure, name or keyword. First time users need to register.
- ThomasNetHalf a million suppliers of more than 6 million products including chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
Top Picks: Prices
PETROCHEMICALS: OLEFINS & AROMATICS
- U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA)Prices and statistics on natural gas, petroleum, and renewable fuels.
- BloombergUse Bloomberg Intelligence BI SPCHG
to view the Specialty Chemicals dashboard. In the Data Library search the Cost Analysis and Prices section for your raw materials.
- MedicaidNADAC (National Average Drug Acquisition Cost) has weekly data going back to 2013. Also take a look at the ACA upper limits on drug reimbursements based on AMP (Average Manufacturer Price).
- International Medical Products Price GuidePrices from pharmaceutical suppliers, international development organizations, and government agencies.
Next Best Thing: Price Sources
ARTICLES & PRESS RELEASES
Sometimes you won't be able to get that 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.
Factiva is a great resource for trade journals from Platts and ICIS. Use the Search Building to limit by publication, date, subject, and keyword. Sample search below with the Sources limited to Platts and ICIS. The Subject limited to Pricing/Prices. And then use your chemical in the Free Text Search box.
- FactivaFull-text online service for international news and business information. Covers over 28,000 sources in 23 languages in more than 150 countries. Some company and market research is included. Factiva includes full-text coverage of the Wall Street Journal.
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.
- ICIS Chemical Business AmericasSearch this journal as well as others in EBSCO's Business Source database for articles mentioning your chemical and the word price in the article text. (Formerly known as the Chemical Market Reporter)
- Company press releases (e.g. Dow)Contains prices for various commodities, such as propylene glycol. Do this for other major producers of chemicals, such as BASF.
Note, that press releases on the company website might only go back a few months or years. To go further back in time, check Factiva.