Acrylic acid

02 April 2001 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Global markets are more balanced as good demand absorbs Asia's excess capacity. Several projects are being implemented despite producers' poor margins

Updated from product profile, ECN 7 June 1999


Glacial (distilled) acrylic acid is used in superabsorbent polymers (SAPs), which account for 26% of the world market, as well as in polymers for detergents and polymer dispersions. Crude (unrefined) material can be used captively to produce esters and other derivatives. Esters are the major derivative of acrylic acid, accounting for 55% of global demand, and are used almost exclusively to make a wide variety of polymers. Emulsion polymers containing acrylate esters are used in the paint, paper, textile, adhesives, speciality coatings and ink industries.


West European production was 751 000 tonne in 2000 with consumption of 741 000 tonne, according to Chem Systems consultancy. Global markets are balanced as steady demand in Europe and the US absorb overcapacity in Asia. Exports to Europe continue from US, Latin America and Asia, although Asian volumes are said to have decreased during the last year. Stockhausen has formed a 50:50 joint venture with Rohm and Haas and brought onstream an extra 75 000 tonne/ year at Marl during 2000. In addition, Dow Celanese started up an 80 000 tonne/year unit at Böhlen and BASF Petronas commissioned its acrylics complex in Kuantan, Malaysia.


European contracts rolled over in quarter one with the majority of business being done between E1100-1300/tonne. Producers have announced an increase in quarter two contracts of about E30/tonne. US producers tried at the beginning of the year to push through previously announced hikes of 3-8 cent/lb but by mid-February prices had remained flat for the majority of consumers who had price hikes in 2000. February contract prices for glacial grade were 53-58 cent/lb. Asian spot prices in March were $950-970/tonne cif NEA.


Most modern plants use gas phase oxidation of propylene via acrolein which produces acrolein, acrylic acid, acetaldehyde and carbon oxides. The reaction can be carried out in single or two-step processes but the latter is favoured because of higher yields. Acrylic acid from primary oxidation can be recovered while the acrolein is fed to a second step to make acrylic acid. Purification can be carried out by azeotropic distillation. The old acetylene, carbon dioxide and water or alcohol route has been largely abandoned.

Health and safety

Acrylic acid is a clear, corrosive liquid with an acrid odour. It is flammable, volatile and mildly toxic. Vapours can flow along surfaces to a distant ignition source and flash back while vapour-air mixtures are explosive above flashpoint. It is normally stabilised with inhibitors as it polymerises readily in the presence of oxygen. It is soluble in water, alcohols, esters and many organic solvents. The vapour is a strong irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes.


Global growth rates are rated at about 5%/year. To 2010, Chem Systems forecasts growth of 3.6%/year for acrylate esters and 4.8%/year for SAPs, detergents and flocculants. Several new projects are planned or under way. BASF plans units of 160 000 tonne/year in Nanjing, China, and Guarantigueta, Brazil. StoHaas is expanding to between 250 000-300 000 tonne/year at Marl by 2003 and plans a new plant in Brazil. Sasol/Mitsubishi plan new plants in Sasolburg, South Africa, for 20003. Rohm and Haas is debottlenecking to 574 000 tonne/year by end 2001 when American Acryl's new 120 000 tonne/year plant in Bayport, Texas, is due to complete. Celanese is also adding 79 000 tonne/year this year.



Company Location Capacity


Atofina Carling, France 240

BASF Antwerp, Belgium 160

Ludwigshafen,Germany 270

Dow Celanese Böhlen, Germany 80

Chemicke Zavody Sokolov

Sokolov, Czech Republic 50

StoHaas Marl, Germany 165


BASF Freeport, Texas, US 300

Celanese Clear Lake, Texas, US 285

Veracruz, Mexico 40

Rohm and Haas

Deer Park, Texas, US 470

Union Carbide Taft, Louisiana, US 109


BASF Petronas Kuantan, Malaysia 160

Beijing Eastern Beijing, China 40

Formosa Plastics

LinYuan, Taiwan 60

Mailiao, Taiwan 90

Idemitsu Petrochemical

Aichi, Japan 50

Jilin Chemical Jilin, China 30

LG Chemical Naju, South Korea 120

Mitsubishi Chemical

Yokkaichi, Japan 110

Nippon Shokubai

Himeji, Japan 236

Nisshoku TriPolyta Acrylindo

Cilegon, Indonesia 60

Shanhai Gaoqiao

Shanghai, China 30

Singapore Acrylic

Pulau Sakra, Singapore 60

Sumitomo Chemical

Niihama, Japan 80

Toagosei Oita, Japan 60

Source: Chem Systems

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