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Published: November 2010
This report covers supply and demand for linear alpha-olefins (LAOs) with carbon chain-lengths of four (butene-1) and higher that are produced in facilities that generate an entire range of LAOs. Most of the current commercial LAO plants produce even-numbered alpha-olefins based on ethylene oligomerization. Butene-1 that is produced from refinery and steam cracker C4 hydrocarbon streams is not included in the discussion.
The LAO market was relatively balanced in most of 2008. However, by the end of the year weak demand brought about by the global economic crisis saw LAO consumption decrease significantly, especially for polyethylene.
Continued weak demand in the major LAO-consuming markets in 2009 resulted in lower LAO consumption and therefore production. By late 2009 and early 2010, when demand started to pick back up for polyethylene and polyalphaolefins, supplies were tight, especially for hexene-1 and decene-1.
The largest uses for linear alpha-olefins are as comonomers for polyethylene production, for the production of alcohols (used largely in detergents and plasticizers) and for making polyalphaolefins (used in synthetic lubricants).
The following pie chart shows world consumption of linear alpha-olefins:
The use of linear alpha-olefins in the production of polyethylene, for polyalphaolefins and for use in oil field drilling applications will be the fastest growing segments in North America. Globally, comonomer-grade LAO consumption will be the fastest growing application (at about 5–6% globally), particularly LAO consumption for the production of linear low-density polyethylene resins.
Forecasts of growth rates vary significantly by region. Annual growth during 2009–2014 is expected to average 2% in North America, 2% in Western Europe and 0.5% in Japan. On a global scale, growth in total LAO consumption should average 3% annually through 2014.