The global plasticizers market size is around 6m tonnes/year, of which Asia is the largest consumer, accounting for approximately 3.5m tonnes/year, followed by Europe, with around 1m tonnes/year and the US at about 800,000 tonnes/year.

Plasticizers are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added. Some 96% of plasticizers are consumed in flexible PVC applications, including cables, PVC films, roofing, flooring and wall covering.

In the US, 80-90% of plasticizers are consumed in PVC applications.

Plasticizers are grouped into a number of categories such as orthophthalates – commonly referred to as phthalates – aliphatics (mainly adipates), trimellitates, epoxy, polymerics and phosphates. They can be substituted by one another, depending on cost, performance and legislation.

Ortho-phthalate plasticizers such as dioctyl phthalate (DOP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-propyl heptyl phthalate (DPHP) are by far the predominant types, representing around 75-85% of plasticizers produced and consumed in the world.

However, environmental and health concerns being attributed to orthophthalates – more so to low phthalates such as DOP – have led to a decline in their use against a growing trend for using more environmentally-friendly compounds such as dioctyl terephthalate (DOTP).

Non-phthalate plasticizers include dioctyl adipate (DOA), 1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester (DINCH) and trioctyl trimellitate (TOTM).

ICIS pricing quotes DOP, DINP, DOTP, DOA, DPHP, DINCH and TOTM in the US; DOP, DINP and DOTP in Asia-Pacific; and DOP, DINP, DOTP and DPHP in Europe.

DOP is the most common low-phthalate plasticizer worldwide. It is most widely used in Asia. While it is no longer used in the US to any significant extent, DOP is an important plasticizer in Latin America. DOP represents about 10% of the European plasticizer market where it has been included in the EU Candidate List and is expected to be phased out by the EU by February 2015.

DINP is a high-phthalate plasticizer. It is widely used in the US, and is the most widely used plasticizer in Europe and is the second largest plasticizer in Asia.

DOTP is a terephthalate plasticizer. This general purpose compound is growing fast in volume and is taking share not only from DOP but also increasingly from DINP.

DPHP is a decyl phthalate used in applications such as the production of artificial leather for automobiles, and for wire and cable coatings.

DINCH was developed for use in applications that are sensitive based on exposure and toxicological issues. It is used in the production of medical products and toys.

Feedstocks for DOP include 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) and phthalic anhydride (PA).

Feedstocks for DINP include isononanol (INA) and PA.

Feedstocks for DOTP include 2-EH and terephthalic acid (PTA).

Feedstock for DPHP is 2-propyl heptanol alcohol (2PH).

Feedstocks for DOA include 2-EH and adipic acid.

Feedstock for TOTM is 2-EH.

Feedstock for DINCH is DINP.

To find out more Phthalate Plasticizers Methodology December 2012

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