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August 27, 2007

The Bad News From ICIS on Chemical Price Coverage

.: Readers of this site will know that I have written and followed up on the slow but steady decline in chemical price coverage by ICIS Chemical Business, formerly ICIS Chemical Business Americas, formerly Chemical Market Reporter. The last full set of weekly chemical prices appeared in the 28 August 2006 issue of Chemical Market Reporter, the final issue before it became ICIS Chemical Business Americas. Now we have reached a point where very few, if any updated weekly chemical prices will be available from ICIS, rendering its pricing coverage virtually useless for our undergraduate engineering design students.

In September 2006, ICIS Chemical Business Americas began maintaining and updating a significantly reduced price list of ~80 or so chemicals in each issue, while maintaining the 28 August 2006 list on its ICIS Students site. The bad news to report, however, is the following. On 16 July, ICIS Chemical Business Americas merged with ICIS Chemical Business (Europe, Middle East, Asia) to create one global magazine, ICIS Chemical Business. Details on this were provided here. As of the 16 July 2007 issue of the new ICIS Chemical Business, the section covering those ~80 chemical prices is no more. Two sections in the new magazine will cover some pricing information: Chemical Market Trends and Key Chemical Prices, which lists about 10-15 prices only.

ICIS Pricing is a service to which one can subscribe to get detailed reports, prices and analyses of key chemicals, including: Benzene, Toluene, Xylenes, Para-xylene, Ortho-xylene, Styrene, Naphtha, Methanol, MTBE, Ethylene, Propylene. A list of the markets on which ICIS reports indicates coverage is primarily in petrochemicals. ICIS Pricing also provides chemical price reports for "major chemical markets including olefins, aromatics, plastics, solvents and intermediates". The ICIS Pricing service is of no use to our students, of course, because it requires separate subscription funding for each report.

There is some good news: ICIS has updated some of the prices on the static page of prices from 28 August 2006 to reflect the second quarter of 2007, which will be of help to our students seeking current pricing information, and for this we are grateful to Sue Royse for her diligence. In e-mail conversation with Sue, I also learned that the NYC office of ICIS is looking into which of the ~80 chemical prices previously covered through to the 09 July 2007 issue it might be able to update on a regular basis.

The bottom line for all chemical engineering and other engineering students on campuses throughout the world, working on their capstone design projects, is that they can no longer use ICIS Chemical Business as a source for current chemical prices, at least not for the time being. This is very frustrating, but is the reality we as instructors and engineering librarians now face. There are few remaining options, one of which is to use the prices from the Sigma-Aldrich mega-site, which continues to list prices for thousands of chemicals, albeit in very small amounts. Students would need to extrapolate the price to get a figure that could be used in designing a chemical plant or process.

If you feel feedback is warranted on these recent changes, please e-mail the ICIS editor, Joseph Chang, at joseph.chang@icis.com, or ICIS Global Editorial Director Penny Wilson, at penny.wilson@icis.com. While I am very disappointed in this change in direction, I do know that both Joseph and Penny would welcome your comments and feedback. I have spoken and exhanged e-mails with both of them in the past, and they are very aware of the concerns I have raised over the past two years and have been gracious in their reception of my comments and concerns. The ICIS Students site, still being developed by Penny, emerged as a result of our conversations.

The video below, from the ICIS Pricing page, explains ICIS pricing methodology.