05 August 2002 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Isopropanol (IPA), also known as isopropyl alcohol, is a low-cost solvent used in many industrial and consumer products and as an extractant. The European Solvents Industry Group (ESIG) said that in Europe last year intermediates accounted for 32% of consumption, 14% was used as a de-icer, 13% in paints and resins, 9% in pharmaceuticals, 4% in food and 3% in ink and adhesives. It is also used as a solvent for oil and gums and in the manufacture of fishmeal concentrates. Low-grade IPA is used in motor fuels.
Its use as a raw material for acetone production is declining. Several chemical compounds are synthesised from IPA, in particular methyl isobutyl ketone and a range of esters. Different grades are available depending on the end-use. The normal quality of anhydrous IPA is 99+%, while special grades (essence and pharmaceutical) are 99.8%+.
Total production in Europe from BP, Sasol and Shell was 424 010 tonne in 2001, according to ESIG. Sales in western Europe amounted to nearly 363000 tonne last year with exports reaching just over 46 000 tonne.
The market improved in quarter two 2002, following a disappointing first quarter. Supply has tightened with depleted inventories at producers following planned shutdowns and reduced output because of the shortage of propylene feedstock. Imports of blends also continues to be limited. Availability is expected to remain tight through the second half. Demand is brisk and has been aided by the higher price for alternatives such as ethanol and mixed alcohols.
There are two commercial processes to manufacture IPA, both based on propylene. The older method is by the indirect hydration of refinery-grade propylene using sulphuric acid to form isopropyl sulphate which is then hydrolysed with steam to form sulphuric acid and IPA. The crude IPA is distilled to the desired purity.
The newer route uses the direct hydration of chemical grade (90-99%) propylene, avoiding the need for sulphuric acid. Propylene and water are heated and the liquid-vapour mixture passes under pressure into a trickle flow reactor containing sulphonated polystyrene cation ion exchange resins. Alternatively, the reaction can be carried out in the gas phase over a phosphoric acid-based fixed bed catalyst. There is also a liquid phase route employing a soluble tungsten catalyst. The IPA is obtained from the aqueous solution by distillation.
A small amount of IPA is produced by the hydrogenation of acetone in the liquid phase but this process is only suitable where excess acetone is available.
IPA is a colourless, volatile liquid with a slight odour which is miscible with water and ethanol. It is highly flammable and poses a moderate explosion hazard as its vapours mix well with air forming explosive mixtures. Flashback can occur as vapours can roll for considerable distances. Vapour is a mild irritant to the eyes, nose and throat and it can be absorbed through the skin.
IPA is a mature product in Europe and the US and demand growth is put at 1-2%/year. Its use in derivatives production has the greatest potential with little or no growth projected for use in solvents. Higher growth rates are forecast for central and eastern Europe, and Asia.
Shell is investing at Deer Park to improve operational reliability but with no increase in nameplate capacity. Domo and Mitsui have completed the feasibility study for an 80000 tonne/year solvents complex at Leuna, Germany, which includes IPA capacity. Startup is expected in the first half of 2004 and output would serve central and east European markets. Players expect the new plant to have a negative impact in Europe which is self-sufficient in IPA.
|BP||Baglan Bay, UK||100|
|Equistar||Channelview, Texas, US||29.5|
|ExxonMobil||Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US||325|
|Jinzhou Petrochemical||jinzhou, China||50|
|lee Chang Yung||lin Yuan, Taiwan||50|
|LG Chem||Yosu, South Korea||30|
|Mitsui Chemicals||Takaishi, Japan||33|
|Nippon Petrochemicals||Kawasaki, Japan||78|
Deer Park, Texas, US
Pulau Bukom, Singapore
Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
|Sol Petroleo||Campana, Argentina||48|
|Union Carbide||Texas City, Texas, US||250|
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
Sample issue >>
My Account/Renew >>
Register for online access >>
|ICIS Top 100 Chemical Companies|
|Download the listing here >>|
Asian Chemical Connections