Thursday, January 3, 2013

Finding Chemical Prices on the Internet

My experience has been that finding current prices on the Internet for bulk-size amounts of chemicals is difficult, without providing information to the suppliers.  Producers and distributors of chemicals are willing to provide quotes, but require information from the requestor, e.g. requestor name, amounts, use, etc, before providing a quote, and likely only after the vendor judges the request to be legitimate.   Because pricing is likely to depend on so many factors, such as amounts, requestor, location, etc, the vendor’s need to obtain information from the requestor is understandable.  (This difficulty in obtaining chemical price data does not apply to laboratory quantities of chemicals.  Prices for laboratory sizes are readily available on the Internet without needing to send a request to the vendor.)

Although difficult, with determination, time, and the right search strategies, relative recent (but not current vendor’s pricing without contacting the vendor) bulk chemical prices often can be found on the Internet.  For example, with rigorous searching, I was able to find relatively recent bulk prices (2010, 2011, and/or 2012), with various terms and delivery locations, for the following chemicals:  benzene; sulfuric acid; titanium dioxide; sodium hydroxide (caustic acid); glycerin; polycarbonate; soda ash; caprolactam; ethylene; propylene; p-xylene; and polystyrene.  These were most, if not all, the chemical prices I searched for. 

The US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains producer price indexes for several categories of chemicals, e.g. petrochemicals; industrial gases; synthetic dyes and pigments; basic inorganic compounds; basic organic compounds; and plastics and resins.  (Click here to access these indexes.)   These chemical price indexes might be useful in projecting a dated price found on the Internet for a chemical, e.g. a 2010 or 2011 price, to a more recent price.  However, because of chemical price volatility, and probably other factors, using the chemical price index may not always give projected prices that are reasonable close to the actual current prices.

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