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CHEMICAL PROFILE: Phthalic anhydride

26 February 2007 00:00 [Source: ICB]

Phthalic anhydride (PA) is primarily used in the manufacture of phthalate esters, mainly dioctyl phthalate (DOP), used as plasticisers in polvyinyl chloride (PVC). The second-largest outlet for PA is in unsaturated polyester resins (UPR). A slowly declining use is in alkyd resins, which are used in solvent-borne protective coatings.

Producers report a good year in 2006, with steady demand in a tight market. Planned and unplanned shutdowns kept supply restricted throughout the year, helping to drive up prices and improve margins for suppliers. Demand has remained healthy in early 2007, and availability, although still snug, has improved. However, more planned outages from April/May could tighten the market again. There has been a lack of imports from Asia and South America, mainly due to higher prices. Some exports are reported to North Africa. BASF closed its plant at Feluy, Belgium, in 2005. In May 2006, Krasitel restarted its plant after a year's outage. Kemiplas' Hungarian plant was due back up last month, following a nine-month outage after a catalyst change. Lonza has put its polymer intermediates business into new entity, Polynt.

In Europe, contracts are either settled on a formula relating to orthoxylene (OX) feedstock, or are freely negotiated. February contracts rose by 20/tonne to 1,100-1,180/tonne FD NWE for liquid and flake, following the OX increase. Spot prices held steady, with business between 1,2301,280/tonne. Prices in Asia and the US have also increased this month. Southeast Asian cargoes sold at $40/tonne higher mid-month at $1,220-1,240/tonne CFR, and US contracts rose by 4 cents/lb to 59.50-64.50 cents/lb.

The dominant route via OX has largely superseded naphthalene-based technology, which accounts for about 16% of production. OX is catalytically oxidised in a fixed-bed reactor and the reactor effluent containing PA vapours is cooled and sublimated in condensers. The crude PA is purified in a vacuum distillation system and the product is either stored in a molten state or bagged as flakes. There has been little change in process technology, although research continues to focus on catalyst improvements. One development has been the lowering of air to OX weight ratio, which is now 9.5:1, and allows lower capital costs and energy savings.

Health and safety

PA is a white, crystalline solid or clear, molten liquid. It is combustible and dust may form explosive mixtures with air. PA reacts with moisture to form phthalic acid, which corrodes metals. It irritates the eyes, nose and skin, and is harmful if swallowed or inhaled.

Demand growth in Europe is put at 2-3%/year. This will be mainly driven by rising consumption in central and east European markets, notably from the construction sector. Demand in northwest Europe will remain low but stable. The shift continues away from DOP and into alternatives such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and other C10 plasticisers. Spending is focused on the growing markets of Asia, mainly China. A 40,000 tonnes/year plant will start up in Iran at the end of 2007
European phthalic anhydride CAPACITY '000 tonnes/year

Company Angarsk Petrochemical Arkema Atmosa Petrochemie BASF CEPSA Destilacija Teslic Deza ExxonMobil JSC Ural Chemical Kemiplas Krasitel Lakokraska Lanxess Oltchim Orgachim Perstorp Oxo Petrobrazi Polymer Pack Polynt ProvironFtal

Location Angarsk, Russia Chauny, France Schwechat, Austria Ludwigshafen, Germany Algeciras, Spain

Capacity 15 90 50 25 110 30

Avdeevka By-product Coke Plant Avdeevka, Ukraine

Teslic, Boznia-Herzegovina 16 Valasske Mezirici, Slovakia 35 Botlek, Netherlands Nizhniy Tagil, Russia Fuzfogyartelep, Hungary Koper, Slovenia Rubezhansk, Ukraine Lida, Belarus Krefeld, Germany Rimnicu Vilcea, Romania Ruse, Bulgaria Nol, Sweden Brazi, Romania Omsk, Russia Scanzorosciate, Italy Ostend, Belgium 75 7 20 32 25 26 85 20 20 35 35 40 80 100

San Giovanni Valdarno, Italy 30

Salavatnefteorgsintez Slovnaft Uralkhimprom VFT Belgium West-Siberian Steel ZA Kedzierzyn Source: ICIS

Salavat, Russia Bratislava, Slovakia Perm, Russia Zelzate, Belgium Novokuznetsk, Russia Kedzierzyn, Poland

15 40 75 20 10 24