To investigate time-variant and nonlinear characteristics in industrial processes, a soft sensor modelling method based on time difference, moving-window recursive partial least square (PLS) and adaptive model updating is proposed. In this method, time difference values of input and output variables are used as training samples to construct the model, which can reduce the effects of the nonlinear characteristic on modelling accuracy and retain the advantages of recursive PLS algorithm. To solve the high updating frequency of the model, a confidence value is introduced, which can be updated adaptively according to the results of the model performance assessment. Once the confidence value is updated, the model can be updated. The proposed method has been used to predict the 4-carboxy-benz-aldehyde (CBA) content in the purified terephthalic acid (PTA) oxidation reaction process. The results show that the proposed soft sensor modelling method can reduce computation effectively, improve prediction accuracy by making use of process information and reflect the process characteristics accurately.