Maleic Anhydride

19 September 2005 00:01  [Source: ICB]

European Maleic Anhydride Capacity, '000 Tonne / Year

Company Location Capacity
BASF Feluy, Belgium 115
Ludwigshafen, ?Germany 3
Compania Espanola de Petroleos Algeciras, Spain 12
Cray Valley Drocourt, France 15
DSM Fine ?Chemicals Linz, Austria 36
Kemiplas Koper, Slovenia 2
Koksno Hemijski Kombinat Lukavac, Bosnia 10
Lonza Ravenna, Italy 65
Bergamo, Italy* 36
MOL Szazhalombatta, ?Hungary 13
Novomoskovsk Orgsyntez Novomoskovsk, Russia 12
Orgachim JSC Ruse, Bulgaria 1
Petrobrazi Brazi, Romania 12
Sasol-?Huntsman Moers, Germany 56
Zaklady Azotowe Kedzierzyn Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland 7
*on standby

Source: Nexant Chem Systems

Profile last published 29 September 2003; Chemical Profile is published fortnightly.



Maleic anhydride (MA) is mainly used in unsaturated polyester resins (upr) which account for about 50% of consumption. Upr resins are consumed in the construction, marine and automotive industries.

The next most important outlet is 1,4-butanediol (BDO) and its derivatives tetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL). Other uses are in plasticisers, surface coatings, agrochemicals, lubricants, fumaric acid and malic acid. MA is commercially available in liquid (molten) or solid (flake) form.


Market growth has been disappointing this year with weak demand into the upr sector. The upr market is down 1% on 2004 and overall demand in Europe is forecast to be flat this year versus last, says Nexant Chem Systems. Some players more optimistically report 1-2% growth for MA this year.

Several European plants have been down this year for both scheduled and unscheduled stoppages. This, together with outages in the US which has drawn in extra material from Europe and Asia, has kept European availability more balanced. Players say demand has picked up in September and supply is beginning to tighten. This year has seen lower levels of imports with just a few thousand tonne of flake reported from Asia.

Lonza has restarted production in Ravenna, Italy, where capacity has risen by 10 000 tonne/year to 65 000 tonne/year. The benzene-based unit at Bergamo has been put on standby to be used opportunistically. Italy’s Polioli shut its benzene-based plant in December 2003. BASF has cut capacity in Belgium by 20 000 tonne/year.


European MA contract prices for liquid material fell in quarter three to €1350-1380/tonne from €1415-1475/tonne in both quarters one and two. Spot prices for liquid are heard at €1300-1350/tonne, and are moving closer to €1350/tonne on the back of uncertainty over the direction of crude and feedstock costs.

Players are predicting ‘significant’ increases for quarter four contracts driven by higher raw material prices but said it was too early to give numbers. Margins are said to have improved this year.


MA is produced by the oxidation of benzene or butane. It can be made from butane in either fixed or fluidised bed processes. The fluid bed process has advantages over the fixed bed route such as lower air-to-hydrocarbon concentration in the feedstock and no need for premixing. However, disadvantages include abrasion of the catalyst, conversion rates and by-product formation.

In the fixed bed route, air is mixed with superheated butane and fed to the reactor containing the catalyst. Oxidation is carried out at 400-430°C. The reaction gases are cooled and MA is condensed. Further MA is recovered from the maleic acid in the water scrubber by dehydration. The crude anhydride is purified by distillation under pressure.

Scientific Design has developed chloride-free catalysts for MA production in fixed bed reactors. High growth for BDO has spurred butane-to-BDO integrated technologies which have been developed by Huntsman and BASF with Davy Process Technology ?and BP/Lurgi.

BOC Gases and Mitsubishi Chemical have developed Petrox technology, This uses a selective hydrocarbon separation system to recover and recycle unreacted butane and lets MA be produced at low butane conversion to maximise selectivity and yield.


MA occurs as white or colourless crystals with a pungent odour. It is combustible and reacts violently with fire extinguishing agents. Exposure will irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Inhalation may cause asthmatic reactions.


Future demand will grow in line with GDP. Growth will be 1.5-2.0%/year in western Europe, around 4.0%/year in eastern Europe, and 3.0%/year globally.

New investment is mainly focused in Asia, the strongest growth region. BDO is the fastest growing end-use and is predicted by Nexant Chem Systems to increase by about 10%/year in China. In Europe, Sasol-Huntsman will replace its pastillisation unit with a solidification unit by the end of 2005. In addition, a small debottlenecking in August 2006 will lift capacity by 10% to at least 60 000 tonne/year.

In the US, Lanxess plans to raise capacity in Texas to nearly 73 000 tonne/year by 2006 and Huntsman plans a new 50 000 tonne/year plant for first half 2008.

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