World phenol demand could lead to acetone overcapacity – Mitsui

16 June 2010 10:30  [Source: ICIS news]

By Julia Meehan

World phenol demand could lead to acetone overcapacity - MitsuiBERLIN (ICIS news)--Worldwide demand for phenol could create a surplus of some 200,000 tonnes of acetone by 2015, a company executive said on Wednesday.

Michael Foeste, phenol product manager at Mitsui & Co Deutschland, said worldwide phenol growth was expected to be a around 5%, while acetone was not expected to grow by more than 4%.

“The acetone market is not growing because phenol is growing and a main concern of the market is what will happen to the acetone,” Foeste said in a speech at the 6th ICIS World Phenol-Acetone conference.

Acetone is a by-product of phenol - one tonne of phenol produces 0.62 tonnes of acetone.

Acetone in Europe was expected to grow by only 0-2% from 2010 to 2015 which raised the question of what options the market would have for the excess acetone.

“MMA [methyl methacrylate] demand is still growing but the preferred production is from the Alpha process of C4 route, not acetone, said Foeste.

“You could stimulate acetone demand by dropping the prices or by finding alternative outlets or solutions such as IPA [isopropanol] or [MIBK] methyl iso butyl ketone. Alternatively you could recycle acetone,” Foeste added.

He went onto stress that worldwide phenol demand was predominantly driven by bisphenol A (BPA) production and not acetone demand, with the strongest demand for BPA coming from Asia, particularly China.

In relation to the BPA market, Foeste predicted that demand for BPA into polycarbonates in Asia would increase by 4% between the period 2010-2012, and dip 1% to 4% from 2012-2015.

Epoxy resins growth would also remain strong at 5% over the next five years.

However, BPA growth in Europe and the US was expected to dip by 3% from 2010-2012, with an expected growth of 1% from 2012-2015.

Because of such strong demand in Asia, Foeste forecast a shortfall of some 340,000 tonnes of phenol in 2010 alone because demand for BPA was so strong in than Asian markets.

BPA is produced by the condensation of phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid catalyst or caution exchange resin. Two grades are produced for epoxy resin manufacture and for polycarbonate production.

($1 = €0.81)

For more on phenol visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Julia Meehan
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