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Published: November 2011
Approximately 52% of all maleic anhydride consumed in 2010 was for the production of unsaturated polyester resins. There is little regional variation except for maleic anhydride consumed for butanediol (in China, Other Asia and the Middle East). In most regions, consumption closely parallels production. Trade represents 15–20% of production in the producing countries. In most regions of the world, the largest market for maleic anhydride is unsaturated polyester resins. Demand for unsaturated polyester resins is influenced by the health of the construction industry and overall state of the economy.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of maleic anhydride:
The economic crisis of 2007 through most of 2009 contributed to a large drop in consumption of maleic anhydride in most regions. Chinese consumption of maleic anhydride slowed, but did not decline during the same period. The unsaturated polyester resin market, maleic anhydride's largest consuming market, took a large hit from the weak housing, construction, automotive and boating industries. At the end of 2009, several markets started to improve and there was a significant increase in demand in 2010.
Unsaturated polyester resins will continue to have the largest market share and will drive refined maleic anhydride consumption on a global scale. The developing regions will experience the highest growth in maleic anhydride for unsaturated polyester resin production since a considerable amount of unsaturated polyester resin goes into infrastructure. Overall economic health will affect the unsaturated polyester resin market because it is tied to the construction, automotive and marine industries. Maleic anhydride consumption for butanediol will grow primarily in Asia and the Middle East. Maleic anhydride consumption for butanediol is not included in the United States since maleic anhydride is not refined. A plant in the Republic of Korea uses refined maleic anhydride for butanediol production. Maleic anhydride consumption for butanediol production is included in Other Asia and the Middle East, in cases where refined maleic anhydride is believed to be used.
Regionally, smaller end-use applications will experience higher-than-average growth, such as maleic copolymers in the United States. New product development—driven by increasing the use of renewables or replacing one petroleum-based chemical with a more environmentally friendly one—will drive maleic anhydride consumption in this application. The use of maleic anhydride and maleic anhydride copolymers will stand to gain from the increasing importance of recyclability, biodegradability and the use of more sustainable chemicals.