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Published: September 2012
Isophthalic acid is a colorless crystalline solid. It is used as an intermediate primarily for unsaturated polyester resins and alkyd and polyester coating resins; other applications include use in aramid fibers, as a component of copolyester resins and in high-temperature polymers.
Currently, there is global overcapacity for isophthalic acid. Despite some capacity rationalization in recent years and considerable demand during peak seasons, operating rates averaged about 70% in 2011.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of isophthalic acid:
Purified isophthalic acid (PIA) has three major uses:
- PET copolymer, which is used in bottle resins and to a much lesser extent for fibers. PIA reduces the crystallinity of PET, which serves to improve clarity and increase the productivity of bottle manufacture.
- Unsaturated polyester resins, where the addition of PIA improves thermal resistance and mechanical performance, as well as resistance to chemicals and water.
- Polyester/alkyd surface coating resins, where PIA increases resistance to water, overall durability and weatherability.
The best prospects for growth in consumption of PIA are in developing areas. China will continue to experience steady growth in all end-use markets, ranging from 6% to 8% annually. Demand in Brazil and the Middle East will see double-digit growth while some Asian countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and India) and Russia are expected to increase 7–9% predominantly as a result of increases in PET bottle resins manufacture. Unsaturated polyester resins will experience double-digit growth in the Middle East while China and Brazil will experience a 6–8% average annual increase.
In North America and Western Europe, consumption of PIA will grow at an average annual rate of less than 2% per year. Unsaturated polyester resins and surface coatings are heavily dependent on construction markets, which are slowly recovering from the financial crisis of 2008 further compounded by debt crisis concerns in Western Europe. Consumption of PET bottle resins will grow by only 0.9–1.9% per year because of maturity in the carbonated soft drink market, downgauging by bottle producers, a slowdown in the sales of bottled water, higher recycling rates and general economic sluggishness.
In Japan, PET bottle resin producers tend to use PIA-copolymerized PET produced at plants outside of Japan, so unsaturated polyester resins and surface coatings are more important outlets for PIA. No growth is forecast for PIA in Japan.