Chemical Profile Acrylic acid

01 May 2006 00:00  [Source: ICB]


Acrylic acid’s major derivative is acrylic esters which account for more than half of world demand. Crude (unrefined) acrylic acid is used captively and almost exclusively to make acrylates and other derivatives used in the paint, paper, textile, adhesives, speciality coatings and ink industries.

Glacial (distilled) acrylic acid is used in superabsorbent polymers (SAP) whose largest use is in disposable baby diapers, and detergent polymers. Smaller volumes are consumed in polyacrylates used as thickeners, dispersants and rheology controllers.


World markets had a slower year in 2005. New capacity started up in China and the technical problems that plagued plants and dried-up supply in 2004 were resolved.

Current demand in Europe is said to be reasonable. Some improvement was seen in March and April and this has brought the plentiful supply seen in quarter one more into balance. New capacity went online last month at StoHaas in Germany, and Arkema will lift output in France by 15% by the end of 2006. Dow Chemical sold its SAP business to Degussa in February. It will supply glacial acrylic acid to Degussa under a long-term agreement

Production in western Europe hit 828 000 tonne last year, up from 765 000 tonne in 2004, according to Tecnon OrbiChem. East European output rose by 10 000 to 61 000 tonne in 2005. West European demand grew 20 000 tonne to 789 000 tonne in 2005 while east European consumption rose to 38 200 tonne from nearly 31 000 tonne in 2004.


Quarter two contracts have dropped by some €80–120/tonne on quarter one and are reported in the range €1500–1600/tonne. Customers on formula-related contracts have accepted some of the €40/tonne rise in second quarter propylene costs. Players say that margins are being squeezed but believe that prices have reached a floor. Spot sales are being done mainly between €1450–1500/tonne FD.


Most production is based on the gas phase catalytic oxidation of propylene via acrolein. The reaction can be carried out in single or two-step processes, but the latter is favoured because of higher yields. The oxidation of propylene produces acrolein, acrylic acid, acetaldehyde and carbon oxides. Acrylic acid from the 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.

LG’s process uses a new reactor design and purification technique that gives enhanced production efficiency and stability. Supported by Engelhard, Rohm & Haas is developing a process that uses propane instead of propylene, which could offer significant cost savings.

Health and safety

Acrylic acid is a clear liquid with an acrid odour. It is volatile and flammable, very corrosive and the vapour is a strong irritant.


Several projects are planned in China, the world’s fastest growing region. Tecnon OrbiChem says that if all projects are realised, Chinese capacity will rise to 1.3m tonne/year by 2008 versus demand of 600 000 tonne/year. Current capacity is 727 000 tonne/year (including Taiwan and Ningbo’s new unit due in August). Projects may be reconsidered or delayed, mainly because of the propylene shortage in the region and technology issues.

Global demand growth is rated by Tecnon OrbiChem at 3.7%/year, with China at 7.8%/year. West European growth is just 1.6%/year. BASF plans a second 160 000 tonne/year plant in Antwerp, Belgium to feed extra SAP output. Russia’s Akrilat is looking to raise capacity to 60 000 tonne/year.

Profile last published 3 May 2004

Global Acrylic Acid CAPACITY, ’000 tonne/year

Company Location Capacity
Akrilat Dzerzhinsk, Russia 25
American Acryl* Bayport, Texas, US 120
Arkema Carling, France 240
BASF Antwerp, Belgium 160
Freeport, Texas, US 230
Ludwigshafen, Germany 270
BASF Petronas Kuantan, Malaysia 160
BASF-YPC Nanjing, China 160
Beijing Eastern ?Petrochemical Beijing, China 70
Celanese Cangrejera, Mexico 36
Dow Chemical Böhlen, Germany 80
Clear Lake, Texas, US 290
Taft, Louisiana, US 110
Formosa Plastics Kaohsiung, Taiwan 51
Mailiao, Taiwan 90
Ningbo, China** 160
Idemitsu Petrochemical Aichi, Japan 50
Jiangsu Jurong Chemical Yancheng, China 95
Jilin Petrochemical Jilin, China 65
LG Chem Naju, South Korea 26
Yeochun, S Korea 95
Mitsubishi Chemical Yokkaichi, Japan 110
Nippon Shokubai Himeji, Japan 220
Ehime, Japan 80
Nisshoku TriPolyta Acrylindo Cilegon, Indonesia 60
Oita Chemical Oita, Japan 60
Resolution Speciality ?Materials Sokolov, ?Czech Republic 55
Rohm and Haas Deer Park, Texas, US 410
Sasol Dia Acrylates Sasolburg, S Africa 80
Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid Shanghai, China 30
Singapore Acrylic Acid Pulau Sakra, ?Singapore 60
StoHaas Monomer Deer Park, Texas, US 165
Marl, Germany 265
* Arkema/NA Industries 50:50 jv
** due onstream Aug 2006
Source: Tecnon OrbiChem

By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214

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