Virtually all linear alkylbenzene (LAB), also known as detergent alkylate, is converted to linear alkylbenzene sulfate (LAS), which is used almost exclusively as a surfactant in detergents and cleaning products.
Global capacity is forecast by US consultancy Colin A. Houston & Associates (CAHA) to rise from 3.4m tonnes/year to 3.5m tonnes/year by 2010 as new plants start up in Asia, lifting its share of world capacity from 45% in 2008 to 46% in 2010.
Capacity has been reduced by some 200,000 tonnes/year with the closure of South Africa-based Sasol's plants in Porto Torres, Italy, and Baltimore, Maryland, US, in 2007.
Demand in Europe is recovering in the second quarter (Q2) as buyers reenter the market after destocking in Q1 and Q4 2008. But, demand is said to be down by as much as 10% as customers switch to cheaper products that use less active ingredients, and plant operating rates are still reduced and said to be running at 70-80%.
Prices appear to have bottomed out in Europe, with increases achieved in May. One supplier said prices rose €20-40/tonne, tipping over €1,000/tonne. Another quoted a range of €1,080-1,150/tonne, delivered.
Volatile benzene and kerosene costs have hit margins, which deteriorated further in 2009. Players say margins are starting to recover, but prices need to be above €1,100/tonne to gain minimum return.
LAB is mainly produced from n-paraffins, from kerosene (typically in the C10-C13 range), and benzene. Conventional technologies are based on hydrofluoric acid (HF) or aluminum chloride alkylation.
HF's share of global capacity will decrease, as proposed new capacity is based on the Detal process from US-based UOP, developed jointly with Spain's CEPSA. Detal abolished the use of liquid HF, reducing capital and investment costs.
Global demand growth will remain steady at around 2%/year. In Western Europe, demand will grow at GDP rates, but will be higher in Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. Strong growth, possibly reaching 10%/year, will be seen in the emerging markets of Asia, Middle East and Africa, India and South America.
Most new capacity will be built in Asia in 2011-2012, adding to existing world oversupply. New projects have also been announced in the Middle East.
A shortage of n-paraffins feedstock will be exacerbated by US-based ExxonMobil's closure of its Texas plant in June, and the market likely will not recover until 2011, when global producer Shell will start up its Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar. Many GTL projects, expected to include n-paraffins, have been cancelled or delayed.
Major global LAB CAPACITY, '000 TONNES/year
|Ameriya Petroleum Refining||Ameriya, Egypt||50|
|Bisotun Petrochemical||Kermanshah, Iran||55|
|CEPSA Quimica||San Roque, Spain||220|
|Chemische Fabrik Wibarco||Ibbenburen, Germany||66|
|Chevron Chemical||Gonfreville, France||100|
|Deten Quimica*||Camacari, Brazil||220|
|Emalab||Jebel Ali, Dubai||30|
|Formosan Union Chemical||Lin Yuan,Taiwan||90|
|Fushun Petrochemical||Fushun, China||200|
|Gulf FarabiPetrochemical||Jubail, Saudi Arabia||70|
|Huntsman Performance Products||Chocolate Bayou, Texas, US||180|
|Indian Oil||Baroda, India||75|
|Iran Chemical Industries Investment||Esfahan,Iran||75|
|Isu Chemical||Ulsan, South Korea||190|
|Jin TungPetrochemical||Nanjing, China||200|
|Lukoil Neftochim Burgas||Burgas, Bulgaria||5|
|Petresa Canada*||Becancour, Canada||120|
|Qatar Petroleum||Mesaieed, Qatar||100|
|Quimica Venoco||Guacara, Venezuela||135|
|Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL)||Patalganga, India||115|
|Sinopec Jinling Petrochemical||Nanjing, China||100|
|Tamilnadu Petroproducts||Manali, India||100|
|Unggul Indah Cahaya||Merak, Indonesia||210|
|United Joint Stock Co. for Petrochemical Industries||Damascus,Syria||40|
|SOURCE: ICIS plants & projects|
Profile last published February 23, 2004