Product profile: Ethanolamines

01 November 2004 00:01  [Source: ICB]

Strong demand is pushing up plant utilisation and margins. New investment will be needed to keep pace with market growth


There are three main ethanolamines: mono­ethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), which is available as two types depending on purity and colour – TEA85% and TEA99%. MEA’s major use is in ethylene amines and imines (mainly captive), and personal care and detergents. DEA’s primary demand is in herbicides, followed by detergents and personal care and refining/gas treatment.

A large portion of TEA goes into detergents and personal care, then engineering/ metal working and concrete manufacturing. MEA accounts for about 41% of global ethanolamines consumption, with DEA at 34%, while TEA and residues is around 25%.

Supply demand

Global demand has been strong this year as MEA consumption surges due to a new wood treatment system in the US and good demand into ethylene amines. Demand from glyphosate, DEA’S main driver, has recovered compared to 2002 and early 2003. TEA99 is growing due to detergent applications and, in particular, esterquat (fabric softener) demand.

European production in 2004 has been impacted by ethylene oxide (EO) outages, and west European output is likely to be similar to 2003 at about 298 000 tonne. Consumption in western Europe of about 333 000 tonne in 2003 is estimated to grow by 3.5% to 345 000 tonne in 2004.

Imports totalled around 62 400 tonne in 2003, with under 10 000 tonne from eastern Europe, 46 600 tonne from Nafta and 6500 tonne from the Middle East. European exports were around 38 700 tonne. Future imports from Nafta and the Middle East will come under pressure as higher spot prices in China and greater demand in the US reduce incentives to export to western Europe.


Producers have strived to raise prices in 2004 as rising EO costs, and higher values for rival EO derivative monoethylene glycol, has pressured margins. Low spot MEA prices have risen from around €820/tonne FD in late January to €990/tonne by end September. DEA prices have risen from €790/tonne to €870/tonne, and TEA99 prices from €930/tonne to €990/tonne.


Ethanolamines are produced by adding EO to ammonia where the ammonia is either in an aqueous or gaseous state. Excess ammonia is removed in the first column and recycled and then water is removed and the homologues are separated. The product mix can be varied from an MEA content of around 70% to a TEA content of about 50% and any combination in between. Recycling of the various products to produce more DEA or more TEA can vary the end product mix.

Health and safety

MEA, DEA and TEA are colourless liquids. MEA is miscible with water and most oxygenated solvents, and DEA is miscible with water, alcohol and acetone. TEA is miscible with oxygenated solvents and is hygroscopic with a mild ammoniacal odour. High concentrations can be hazardous, are variously corrosive and the vapour is irritating to the eyes, skin and nose.


World demand growth is forecast to average 6%/year with the highest growth in Asia. MEA, due to a one-off step change into wood treatment and demand into electronics, is growing faster than DEA or TEA.

Supply and demand are balanced overall in 2004, but investment in debottlenecks or new plants will soon be needed as demand growth starts to outstrip growth in capacity.

Information from PCI Xylenes & Polyesters Contact:


Company Location Capacity
Europe/Middle East
Akzo Nobel Stenungsund, Sweden 66
Arak Petrochemical Arak Iran 30
BASF Antwerp, Belgium 85
Ludwigshafen, Germany 100
BP Lavéra, France 53
Lukoil Neftekhim Burgas, Bulgaria** 10
Sasol Marl, Germany 27
JSC Syntez Dzerzhinsk, Russia 22
Kazanorgsyntez Kazan, Russia 30
Dow Chemical Seadrift, Texas, US 182
Taft, Louisiana, US 100
Equistar Bayport, Texas, US 25
Huntsman Port Neches, Texas, US 159
Idesa Morelos, Mexico 27
Ineos Oxide Plaquemine, Louisiana, US 160
Oxiteno Camaçari, Brazil 45
Greensoft Daesan, South Korea 20
Jilin Chemical Jilin, China 5
Liaoning Fushun Changzhi, China 25
Mitsui Chemicals Osaka Japan 30
Nippon Shokubai Kawasaki Japan 40
Optimal Kerteh, Malaysia 75
OUCC Lin Yuan, Taiwan 40
Global total (all plants) 1380
Source: PCI Xylenes & Polyesters

* larger plants only ** idled

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