Styrene production demand and its impact on the chemical industry

Vinodhini Harish

06 Jun 2024
1930s. That’s when styrene was first ever produced commercially—Styrene is – a popular monomer and essential chemical commodity used in producing polystyrene and copolymers. Understanding the impact of styrene production on the chemical industry requires an understanding of various aspects and cascading effects from different sectors. In this article, we have discussed the interdependence, market and economic influence, technological advancements, sustainability and trends related to styrene production. If you are interested in knowing how styrene production and consumption are adapting to the changes, and shaping the research, development and investments within the industry, you have to the right place. Let’s begin.

Impact of styrene on the chemical industry:

Styrene has good product characteristics and is utilized for several applications as it combines both rubber and plastic features. About 7 million tons of Styrene is globally produced annually as the chemical component plays a crucial role in multiple sectors. The majority of styrene is utilized for the production of polystyrene, ABS resins, SBR, UBR and other applications. Industries are also experiencing drift in terms of sustainability, technology, and regulatory compliance. Therefore, the production and consumption of styrene continue to adapt and reflect broader trends in industrial practices and otherwise.

Styrene market trends 2023-2024:

In the US market, the styrene price has maintained its stability although there has been a decline in export activity, the production rates have maintained their stability as well. Some instances led to an increase the import costs, such as disruption in the Panama Canal, and manipulation amongst traders to engage in large-volume transactions.

In the Chinese Styrene market, there has been a significant price surge due to limitations in the stock and robust demand from the Asian region. The Israel-Palestinian conflict has affected the feedstock price, and other factors like price surge of benzene, ethylene, crude oil, and production expenses of styrene have affected styrene production and its market.

How Raw materials of styrene production processes affect the chemical industry:

The two primary raw materials required for the production of styrene are Ethylbenzene and propylene. Now, the benzene part of ethylbenzene is derived from the crude oil refining process and it is also obtained as a by-product in steel production.

Therefore it shows that any distortion happens in the demand or production process of these raw materials, then it is reflected in the production of styrene. Similarly, demand for products that utilize styrene as their raw materials also impacts the production and distribution of styrene.

The market size of styrene was at USD 56.8 billion in the year 2023 and it is expected to reach USD 94.7 billion by 2032. It is observed that there is an increase in the demand for polystyrene and in the production of synthetic rubber. These factors act as the major market drivers of styrene. There was a slight decline in crude oil prices as there were some geopolitical tensions particularly involving Russia and Ukraine. This has created market uncertainties that affected the crude oil prices, these factors have affected the styrene prices. Likewise, during the May-June of 2023, there was sluggish end-user consumption of the rubber and other derivatives that involve styrene in and around China, this has caused the price of styrene in the Chinese market to witness a downward trend.
Styrene Market Share at 2022
Styrene Market Share, expected by 2030

Polystyrene is made from styrene. Polystyrene has gained much momentum due to its thermoplastic properties and is utilized to produce many products for industrial and consumer uses. Polystyrene is versatile and its properties make it an essential material in various applications such as packaging, food containers, disposable cutleries, insulation, and consumer goods. Since the demand for single-use packaging materials is growing in the food and beverage sector, it contributes to the growth of the styrene industry.

Likewise, styrene-based polystyrene is utilized in the construction industry for thermal insulation. Thermal insulation and reducing energy consumption are two essential factors in the construction industry, these factors are leading to the growing demand for expanded polystyrene foam boards.

Impact of styrene on human health:

EPA recognizes the dangers caused by styrene and the way it affects the central nervous system. Some of the common symptoms are headaches, confusion, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating. Therefore styrene is considered a human carcinogen.

Additionally, Styrene mimics estrogen disrupts normal hormonal functioning and contributes to thyroid problems, breast cancer, mensural irregularities and other hormone-related problems.

Agilyx demonstrates depolymerization technology in Japan:

Since the industrial sectors are thriving to reduce plastic waste, lower the carbon footprint, and enhance resource efficiency, several organizations are working towards the environmental benefits in the production of styrene.Agilyx’s technology transforms polystyrene waste into a valuable resource, where the materials are kept in use for as long as possible, that is extracting maximum value from them before recovery and regeneration.

The technology:

Agilyx uses a “proprietary pyrolysis technology”. This technology helps in breaking down the contaminated polystyrene into styrene. The post-use polystyrene is heated in an oxygen-free environment in the process. Now, the technology is much celebrated because the used polystyrene is difficult to recycle using traditional mechanical recycling methods and chemical recycling also leads to landfills and disrupts the environment.


The technology helps reduce the need for virgin styrene monomer production that is typically derived from fossil fuels and reduces the overall impact of carbon emissions.
The recovered styrene is then used to produce new polystyrene products – a circular economy for the material.

This technology comes under sustainable management of plastic waste and contributes to global efforts to bring down plastic pollution. Agilyx’s technology and its role in converting used polystyrene back into styrene monomer is much celebrated. Agilyx and Toyo are expected to collaborate and refine the facility in the coming months.


Any technology that represents transformative advancement in recycling polystyrene and addressing significant environmental challenges is well-celebrated and appreciated in the market. The advancements in styrene production and technologies have underscored the importance of bringing in sustainability and corporate responsibility. Therefore companies are hugely involved in focusing on reducing carbon footprint, enhancing product safety, and recycling practices.


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