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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

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 are the most important facts to know: 

  • There is no single, authoritative source of prices for bulk chemicals.
  • The most reliable sources are generally not available to academic audiences and libraries.

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 price tracking products to individuals and companies. Otherwise, students must gather pricing information piecemeal from various publications and web searches. Some other 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.
  • All published prices are estimates. 
  • In many cases a direct quote from a supplier will be the only source of price information.  However, suppliers generally won't provide quotes to students or for educational purposes, so contacting them probably won't work.
  • Don't use research-quantity (g/kg) prices for plant estimation purposes.

Proprietary Sources

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

Other Useful Guides

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 online.

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

Trade publications report the news from the industry.  With systematically collected chemical price data being increasingly unavailable to the general public, most price estimates must be gleaned from irregular journalistic reporting.  The links here are to the public home pages of these publications. Some full text articles can be found via ABI INFORM or Business Source Complete.  Otherwise personal subscriptions are required. 

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.

Searching Trade Literature

Business-focused databases, rather than technical databases such as SciFinder, are the best place to search for articles about chemical pricing and business.

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

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