Dimethyl Terephthalate (DMT) and Terephthalic Acid (TPA)
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Published: August 2010
More than 90% of the worldwide consumption of DMT and TPA is for the production of intermediate polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polymer. PET polymer, also referred to as reactor-grade polyester or PET melt-phase resin, is consumed primarily in the production of polyester fibers, polyester film and solid-state (bottle-grade) resins. PET engineering resins are not only produced from melt-phase PET, but are also produced from recycled postconsumer and postindustrial materials.
About 96% of the consumption of DMT/TPA is accounted for by TPA. During 2008 and 2009, stagnating or even declining PET bottle and polyester fiber production caused a contraction in TPA demand. The use of DMT had already been in decline for several years as a result of the increasing preference for TPA as a feedstock in the production of PET resin.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of DMT/TPA:
More than 60% of the DMT/TPA produced in the world is used to manufacture PET polymer for polyester fibers. Another 31% goes into the manufacture of PET solid-state resin for bottles and other packaging applications. The manufacture of film, PBT and other minor products such as cyclohexanedimethanol (CHDM), terephthaloyl chloride and copolyester-ether elastomers accounts for the remainder. DMT/TPA for PET solid-state resins has grown strongly during the last decade, following the replacement of glass in soft drinks and water bottles.
In the case of PBT engineering resins, however, DMT is still used instead of TPA, mainly in Europe, Turkey and the United States. However, manufacturing PBT using DMT is more expensive than using TPA. Manufacturers of PBT in Europe and in the United States continue to use DMT as a feedstock mainly because their plants are still designed for DMT only. New PBT plants recently constructed in Asia use TPA as a feedstock.
China is by far the largest TPA producer in the world and accounted for a share of about 28% in 2009. Other major producers are the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The latter three export about half of the TPA produced, accounting for nearly 80% of the global trade, with the rest consumed in PET solid-state applications. In contrast, China is a net importer of TPA in order to cover its large domestic demand, the bulk of which comes from the fiber sector. PET solid-state resins, however, will be the fastest-growing sector in the next five years.
By 2014, more than 15 million metric tons of new TPA capacity is expected to come on stream globally, of which about 68% will be in China.
Global demand for DMT/TPA is expected to grow at an average annual rate of approximately 5% during 2009–2014. Consumption of DMT will continue to decline in favor of TPA. Growth in TPA consumption will be driven primarily by the growing PET solid-state resin markets in the Middle East, China, India, Central and Eastern Europe, and Mexico. In Western Europe and the United States, growth will be limited.