I’m working on a report for my Capstone 1 project, creating a plant for manufacturing monochlorobenzene and p-dichlorobenzene through the direct chlorination of benzene. The idea is to design a plant in ASPEN Plus and perform an economic analysis.

Similarly, this project is the first time I am working with BibTex for a project, which means it has simultaneously made bibliography and citations easier while adding headaches I did not realize were possible. Here’s a problem I came across which may help you later.

In my bibliography, I had the following citation:

author = {S & P Global Platts},
title = {Platts Global Benzene Price Index},
howpublished = {Web},
month = {February},
year = {2018},
url = {https://www.platts.com/news-feature/2014/petrochemicals/pgpi/benzene},

It looks all and good, right? No, the unescaped & in line 2 causes an issue which I found out after trying to compile it. Alright, that’s an easy fix, change it to be \& and it should start compiling again. At least, it’s what you would think, but I kept getting an error that I’m using a reserved character, despite the fact it was now escaped in the .bib file.

It turns out that when running BibTex, there is a file used to temporarily store the formatted bibliography lines in a file called “main.bbl”. You may have something different depending on the name of the file you are calling the bibliography command. However, it was in there that I had to find

S & P~Global Platts.
\newblock Platts global benzene price index.
\newblock Web, February 2018.

and manually fix the & in there. Once I did, the compiler ran without a hitch and my document was able to continue compiling changes again.

Thinking about it now instead of late at night, it may be that I was using the quick build on TexMaker where it does PdfLaTeX, BibTex, then PdfLaTeXtwice. It may be that if I simply ran BibTex, I could have avoided this entire fiasco. Since it was doing PdfLaTeX first, the compiler read main.bbl to get the formatted bibliography entries, saw the problem, and threw an error before BibTex was able to be called to compile it. Next time this happens I’ll give it shot to see if that the case.

So moral of the story: make sure your bibliography items are \LaTeX compliant.