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Published: May 2012
Formaldehyde (CH2O) is the simplest and most commercially important aldehyde. It is a colorless gas at room temperature and is soluble in water, alcohols and other polar solvents. Urea-, phenol- and melamine-formaldehyde resins (UF, PF and MF resins) accounted for about 63% of world demand in 2011; other large applications include polyacetal resins, pentaerythritol, methylenebis(4-phenyl isocyanate) (MDI), 1,4-butanediol and hexamethylenetetramine. Most formaldehyde producers are concerned primarily with satisfying captive requirements for derivatives and/or supplying local merchant sales. Formaldehyde is usually produced close to the point of consumption since it is fairly easy to make, is costly to transport and can develop problems associated with stability during transport. As a result, world trade in formaldehyde is minimal.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of 37% formaldehyde:
Construction/remodeling activity, vehicle and furniture production, and original equipment manufacture (OEM) account for most world consumption of formaldehyde. Demand for these markets is greatly influenced by general economic conditions. As a result, demand for formaldehyde largely follows the patterns of the leading world economies. Formaldehyde resins are used predominantly in the wood products industry as adhesives. Growth of these resins is strongly correlated to construction/remodeling activity (which accounts for over 50% of consumption), and to a lesser degree, to the automotive industry.
China is the largest single market for formaldehyde, accounting for about 34% of world demand in 2011; other large markets include the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. China is forecast to experience fast growth rates (around 7% per year) and significant volume increases in demand for 37% formaldehyde during 2011–2016.
World consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of almost 5% during 2011–2016. Continuing significant-to-rapid demand growth in Asia (mainly China) for most applications will balance out moderate growth in North America, Western Europe, Africa and Oceania. Central and South America, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe are forecast to experience significant growth in demand for formaldehyde during 2011–2016, largely as a result of increased production of wood panels, laminates, MDI and pentaerythritol.