Ethylene oxide shortage grabs surfactant market attention - Dow

14 September 2012 20:54  [Source: ICIS news]

BUDAPEST (ICIS)--Global short supply of purified ethylene oxide (EO) is grabbing attention in the world surfactant markets, said a Dow Chemical executive.

“EO is expected to be extremely tight for the next five years,” said Dow Global Commercial Director EO/EG Anand Sundaresan on Thursday at the 1st ICIS European Surfactants Conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Underpinning the short supply is growing demand in emerging countries, with the situation sharply exacerbated by logistics.

In order to meet ongoing and future demand for purified EO, operating rates at existing plants will need to increase from current rates of about 86% to essentially maximum rates of about 90%, Sundaresan said.

EO is volatile and difficult to transport, making deep-sea shipments of the material avoided and truck or rail shipments unattractively expensive or blocked by regulatory stipulations in most countries.

Purified EO is frequently added chemically to a fatty alcohol to create surfactants. Other molecules used in making the surfactant can include propylene oxide, phenol and sulfonation methods, but EO is the primary additive.

Surfactants are a group of products that are "surface acting agents", used to do the work of cleaning in numerous industrial, agriculture and home care applications.

Sundaresan said Dow is the world’s largest purified EO producer, with production sites at multiple units in the US, Europe, Asia and South America.

The ICIS conference in Budapest was held on 13-14 September.

By: Judith Taylor
+1 713 525 2653

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