Cresols, Xylenols and Cresylic Acid
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Published: February 2012
In 2010, world consumption of cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids had decreased just over 2.0% from the 2007 global consumption level. The major world consumers of cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids are the United States, Western Europe, China and Japan, together representing 83% of world consumption in 2010. China overtook Japan to become the third-largest consumer of cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids in 2007. Chinese demand for cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids is expected to grow at just over 5.0% per year during 2010–2016. Global consumption of cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids will grow by 2.5% per year during 2010–2016.
The majority of xylenol consumption is accounted for by 2,6-xylenol consumed for the production of polyphenylene ether (PPE/PPO) resins.
Individual cresol and xylenol isomers are used in numerous applications, including resins (such as PPE from 2,6-xylenol and novolacs from o-cresol), polymerization inhibitors, fragrance chemicals, antioxidants, cleaners, additives, agrochemicals, phosphates and coloring materials. Cresylic acids are used mainly as a solvent for wire enamels; other uses include frothing agents and use in the mining industry. Markets for some products in the United States have declined because of environmental concerns and/or relocation of production from the United States to other countries.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids:
Cresols and cresylic acids are consumed in lesser volumes than xylenols, but are still important.
The largest all-around producer of cresols, xylenols (excluding 2,6-xylenol) and cresylic acids is Merisol, a 50/50 joint venture between Merichem (United States) and Sasol (South Africa) formed in late 1997. Merisol has operating units in the United States and South Africa; the Japanese joint venture was shut down in March 2010. Merisol has the advantage of Sasol's secure cresols feedstock supply and Merichem's flexible purification capacity and technology. Sasol has large coal gasification facilities in South Africa that supply Merisol with raw cresylics.