2-Ethylhexanol (2-EH) Uses and Market Data

19 October 2009 15:41  [Source: Chemical Report]

2-EH is used to make PVC plasticisers (source: Ineos Vinyls)

The main uses for 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) is in the production of plasticisers, coatings, adhesives and other speciality chemicals.


The largest market for 2-EH has been the plasticiser dioctyl phthalate (DOP) which is used in the manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products. An issue for 2-EH producers is that DOP has been dogged by health hazard and environmental concerns. In Europe, DOP and some other phthalate plasticisers have been banned in children’s articles or children’s articles that can be put in their mouths.


As a result, producers have been developing alternative plasticisers. For example, BASF has switched from 2-EH to 2-propylheptanol (2-PH) to make a plasticiser called di-isononyl-cyclohexane dicarboxylate (DINCH) for use in sensitive applications where exposure to toxicological and exposure issues are of concern. DINCH has received approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for use in food contact applications such as cling film, tubes and sealants. Citrates, or citric acid esters, are also being used as plasticisers for PVC products.


Other plasticisers such as trioctyl trimellitate, dioctyl adipate and dioctyl terephthalate can be made from 2-EH and the corresponding acid. It is also used to make heavy metal salts to serve as thermal stabilizers for PVC.


However, a growing area for 2-EH has been its use in the manufacture of acrylate and methacrylate esters. Their principal markets are acrylic emulsion polymers for pressure-sensitive adhesives, textiles and surface coatings, which includes high-solids automotive paints. Demand for waterborne acrylic products that replace organic solvent-based products is being driven by increasingly stringent air emission regulations.


There are a number of other uses for 2-EH. It is used as a low volatility solvent for resins, waxes, animal fats, vegetable oils, disinfectants and insecticidal sprays, and petroleum derivatives. 2-EH derivatives are used as an additive for diesel fuel to reduce emissions and to improve the performance of lube oils and mining chemicals. It can be used in very low concentrations for aqueous anti-foam formulations used in the textiles and paper industries. 2-EH is used in the production of the diester of maleic acid, which is a starting material for surfactants, while it is a feedstock for 2-ethylhexyl sulphate for use as a surfactant for electrolytes.


The global recession means that 2-EH is well supplied worldwide. Total production/consumption is estimated to reach a little over 2.8m tonnes in 2009, giving average utilization rates of just above 80%, according to UK-based consultant Tecnon OrbiChem.


New capacity is planned to come on-stream in China by the end of 2010 and some debottlenecking of plants is planned in India. No new projects have been announced in other regions of the world. In May 2009, Czech producer Chemopetrol closed its 25,000 tonne/year plant at Litvinov.


China is a major 2-EH importer of over 250,000 tonnes/year. Exporters include western Europe of more than 150,000 tonnes/year, Middle East of over 70,000 tonnes/year and rest of Asia at around 50,000 tonnes/year.


Demand for 2-EH in China is predicted by Tecnon OrbiChem to grow at 7%/year from 2010-2015, with worldwide growth at over 2%/year in the same period. No growth and possibly some decline is expected in the US, Europe and northeast Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) as legislation in most major industrial countries move to ban DOP in certain applications and end-users switch to alternative plasticisers.


As a result, DOP consumption will decline in the US and western Europe by around 5%/year and 6%/year respectively over the next 10 years, and will remain flat in northeast Asia. However, there will be need for additional DOP supplies in China and southeast Asia. Demand in China has slowed since 2006 but still forecast to grow at just over 4%/year while southeast Asia will see growth of nearly 3%/year.


Updated: September 2009. Source: ICB Chemical Profile, 20 July 2009.

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