Adiponitrile (ADN)

01 May 2000 00:00  [Source: ICB]


World demand for adiponitrile is around 1.3m tonne/year, according to estimates by Tecnon. Growth estimates are in the region of 2-3%/year for the foreseeable future. Capacity has been increasing steadily in the US and Europe to meet this growth.


ADN can be made from either adipic acid, butadiene or acrylonitrile. DuPont has the best technology, which uses butadiene, but this is not available to other companies under licence. Monsanto and Asahi technologies are based on acrylonitrile. This route is used by Solutia in Alabama, US, Asahi Chemical in Japan and by BASF at its Seal Sands, UK, plant (which it bought from Monsanto in 1985). The adipic acid route is now generally considered obsolete, but is still in use in China.

DuPont and BASF have successfully piloted new butadiene-based technology via ADN to make HMD and caprolactam. This is the first commercial process to make caprolactam from butadiene, and is unusual in that it will provide HMD (for DuPont's nylon 6,6) and caprolactam (for BASF's nylon 6). These two types of nylon compete with one another. The new technology could significantly reduce capital expenditure and eliminate ammonium sulphate by-product.


The technology was to have made its debut at a new 300 000tonne/year BASF/DuPont joint venture plant at Hainan Island, China as part of a $900m integrated nylon feedstocks complex. But the plant was put on hold due to difficult market conditions in the region, and DuPont subsequently pulled out of Asian investments last year. BASF still hopes to pursue the project, possibly with another partner.

Another player is Rhodia, which is involved in nylon intermediates in general and in adiponitrile through its Butachimie joint venture with DuPont at Chalampé, France. Rhodia too is developing a similar C4-based technology. Butadiene is transformed to ADN via hydrocyanation. The ADN can then be converted to HMD, or hydrogenated to give aminocapronitrile, which is in turn hydrolysed to caprolactam.

Meanwhile DuPont is continuing to work with DSM on another adiponitrile to caprolactam technology, which the companies claim could reduce capital costs by 30%.

Health and Safety

Inhalation, ingestion or skin contact with adiponitrile may cause severe injury or death while contact with molten substance may cause severe burns to the skin and eyes. Adiponitrile does not ignite readily but when heated, vapours may form explosive mixtures with air. In case of fire, use dry chemical, CO2, alcohol-resistant foam or water spray.


ADN is the dominant intermediate in nylon 6,6 production. It is converted to hexamethylene diamine (HMD). HMD and adipic acid are raw materials for nylon 6,6. The new processes waiting in the wings from BASF/DuPont and DuPont/DSM have yet to be installed commercially.

However, the indications are that these technologies may provide a cost-effective route to caprolactam in the years to come. DuPont estimates that new demand for caprolactam may exceed 1m tonne/year over the next ten years.


Producer Location Capacity
North America
DuPont Victoria, Texas 225
Orange, Texas 375
Solutia Decatur, Alabama 280
Butachimie* Chalampe, France 300
BASF Seal Sands, UK 130
Liaoyang Petrochemical Liaoyang, China 24
Asahi Chemical Nobeoka, Japan 41

*50:50 DuPont/Rhodia jv
Source: Tecnon UK

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