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Chemical Engineering

Chemical Industry & Business

Where Technology Meets Business...

Chemical engineers working in industry have to know about markets, capital investments, cost estimation, construction, transportation, budgeting, and more.   Yet the tools used for finding business and market information are different from those used for technical information. 

Information Sources

Here is the most important fact to know:  There is no single, authoritative source of prices for bulk chemicals.

The highest quality market analyses are compiled for industry subscribers and tend to be quite expensive, and are not available to an educational audience. Some trade publications (see Trade Magazines tab) offer subscription-based pricing products to individuals and companies. Otherwise, students must gather pricing information piecemeal from various publications and web searches. See the Web Resources tab for a selection of potentially helpful sites.

Some points to remember:

  • Some prices are volatile and change daily; others may be quite stable over long periods of time. For estimation purposes you should consider trends over a period of time.
  • Prices for a commodity differ according to manufacturer, location, quantity, grade, delivery mode, time of year, and other variables. Long term contract prices are usually lower than spot prices.
  • In many cases a direct quote from a supplier will be the only source of price information.
  • Don't use research-quantity prices for plant estimation purposes!

You can search in ABI/INFORM or Business Source Complete (see box to right) for current news reports about commodity chemical markets and pricing, but it's hit or miss. 

Government Sources


Proprietary Sources

The library can't provide direct access to these sources, but we list them here for informational purposes.

Trade publications report the news from the industry.  Articles are not peer reviewed. 

For titles the library can't provide direct electronic access to, the links below are to the home pages of these publications. Some full text can be found via Business Source Complete or other aggregator databases, so check the Journals database for details.  To see the Library's print holdings, click the PRINT ISSUES link to go to the Catalog entry.

Cost indexes are used to estimate future construction costs, based on algorithms that track inflation/deflation applied to known past capital cost figures. 

The principal indexes used to estimate plant construction costs are listed below.  Personal subscriptions are generally required to view this information electronically.

Note:  The Marshall & Swift Equipment Cost Index was discontinued in 2012.

There are many books available on chemical process design and economics. Search the Library Catalog by keywords or by the subject heading Chemical plants -- Design and construction. Or you may just browse the shelves in the Chemistry collection at TP 155.5, where most books on this topic are located.  (The Chemistry Collection is currently located on the 6th floor of PCL, in sections 6AA-6BB.)

Searching Trade Literature

Articles about chemical pricing and business are best searched in business-related databases, not technical databases such as SciFinder. 

The best way to search for price information on a particular chemical is to use an accepted trade/generic name or abbreviation for the chemical with the keyword pric* (to include pricing, prices, and price), and apply a recent date limit:
butadiene and pric*

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David Flaxbart
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