Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)
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Published: March 2012
Use of IPA in direct solvent applications consumed 63% of total IPA demand in 2011. IPA is also used in surface coatings, inks, pesticide formulations, electronic applications, reagents and as a processing solvent in the production of resins.
Beginning in 2007 and through most of 2009, consumption of IPA dropped along with the decrease in demand caused by the global economic crisis. Total world consumption had not yet recovered to 2008 levels in 2011, although it rebounded nicely in 2010 from the 2009 low.
IPA-based acetone is no longer produced in Europe or Asia—primarily because of ample cumene-based acetone supply. Additionally, cumene-based acetone is lower-priced than IPA, making it impractical to produce acetone from IPA.
Global IPA-based acetone production decreased with the increase in phenol capacity (acetone is a coproduct of phenol by the cumene peroxidation process). With IPA-based acetone no longer being produced in Western Europe or Asia, the market share for this application decreased from 7% in 2008 to 1% in 2011.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of isopropyl alcohol:
Worldwide IPA consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 2.5% during 2011–2016. As long as the demand for IPA continues to grow at the estimated annual rate of 2.5% through 2016 and only the announced capacity comes onstream, the industry operating rate should be in the low to mid-80s.
IPA prices increased through mid-2011 with rising feedstock costs. However, by late 2011 and into 2012 prices decreased. This was particularly evident in Asia where a significant amount of acetone-based IPA capacity has come onstream or is about to start up.