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Changes in Adipic Acid Uses

Aug 17, 2007
According to Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd (UK), a consulting company, the use of adipic acid in the manufacture of polyurethanes has been expanding, since the market for polyamide resins and fibre is mature and these products are largely competed by polyesters and polypropylenes.

Significantly increased interest in carboxylic acids demonstrated by large companies of chemical and related sectors over the recent years has spurred market research hypermarkets and agencies to initiate a full-scale research of adipic acid.

Participation of top experts in the execution of such researches has become common practice for the brand market research companies. This fully refereed and highly acclaimed research has originated due to implementation of statistical, econometrical, sociometrical, IT, and marketing methods, which resulted in obtaining true-to-life data on the volume of adipic acid market and its development trends.

Current polyurethane production and consumption growth rates are higher than those demonstrated by polyamides and, particularly, by polyamide fibre. Thus, the demand for AC exhibited by western European producers of polyurethanes has been steadily growing (by 12-15% per year, at present).

The hexanedioic acid (HC) consumption structure varies by regions. Thus, in the Asia-Pacific region 85% of HC is used for polyamide production, while its share in the production of polyurethanes is lower, since polyurethane production in this region more often involves simple polyesters which do not require adipic acid for their synthesis. Nevertheless, demand for nylon applied in the manufacture of plastics is growing. The Asian region is a vivid manifestation of this tendency. That, in turn, leads to the increase in the demand for AC in the region. However, the demand for carboxylic acids in the Asia-Pacific region remains cyclical. The average annual demand growth rate is forecast to stay at 3-3.5% worldwide.

The current, though not clearly marked, trend is the increase in adipic acid consumption connected with the production of polyurethanes based on polyesters (polyesters are obtained form diethylene glycol and AC). This trend is caused by two factors: (i) the main area of HC application is the production of polyamide resins/fibres; (ii) the major polyamide (nylon) markets are already fixed and severely affected by polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene supplies.

Russia fails to have its own production of adipic acid, though the prerequisites for its origination are quite favourable, since the vital feedstock (cyclohexanol, cyclohexanone, nitric acid) is available and major consumers of end-products (plasticisers, monomers) are present. Governmental strategy entitled "The development of the chemical industry until 2010" names Khimvolokno (Schekino) as the most perspective carboxylic acids producer in Russia with large potential for future investments to foster adipic acid manufacture.

The prospective annual demand for AC in Russia reaches several dozen thousand tons.

In Russia, this acid is used in the production of plasticisers, polyamides, pharmaceuticals, polyurethanes.

Leading AC producers include America, Germany and France. China is a major importer of this commodity. Many hexanedioic acid producers have been expanding their capacities over the recent years. However, companies currently prefer not to open new facilities, since they expect polyamide resins slow-down, especially in the car industry where polyamide resins substitute other construction plastics.

Almost all of the commercial hexanedioic acid is produced from cyclohexane through two sequent oxidation processes. Another industry reaction is by the hydrogenation of benzene into cyclohexane and then oxidation. AC can be produced from butadiene by carboalkoxylation. However, this process is not commercialized, but it may hold promise for a less expense in production. Many alternate processes have been researched; nevertheless, the oxidation of cyclohexane with nitric acid is the most efficient.

Adipic acid is used in manufacturing plasticizers and lubricants components. It is applied in making polyester polyols for polyurethane systems. Food grade AC is used as gelling aid, acidulant, leavening and buffering agent.
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