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Published: January 2013
Naphthalene is derived from two sources—coal tar and petroleum. In 2012, over 92% of the world's naphthalene was produced from coal tar. Petroleum naphthalene capacity is concentrated in China, the United States and Western Europe. Over the past decade, China has become the world's largest producer of naphthalene. Despite having nearly half of the world's naphthalene capacity and output, China's naphthalene industry consists of medium-sized to small production plants that are not very well interlinked with each other or to viable coal tar feedstocks, resulting in less-than-optimal operating rates.
The major outlet for naphthalene is now in the production of naphthalene sulfonates. Much of China's recent expansion has been influenced largely by strong demand growth in naphthalene sulfonate–formaldehyde condensate (NSF) use in concrete admixtures. In 2011, naphthalene sulfonates accounted for nearly 70% of China's and an estimated 50–55% of the world's total demand, and this market continues to exhibit the strongest growth globally, at about 2.5% per year.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of naphthalene:
As a result of expanding NSF markets and feedslate shifts, consumption for phthalic anhydride has gradually declined, making it the second-largest end use for naphthalene globally. The majority of global phthalic anhydride is now derived from ortho-xylene, which is readily available in large quantities. Naphthalene-based production is often preferred because of fluctuating petrochemical (o-xylene) feedstock pricing; phthalic anhydride production accounted for more than 80% of total naphthalene demand in countries such as Japan, Russia and the Republic of Korea. Globally, growth in demand for production of phthalic anhydride is forecast at 2–2.5% annually during the forecast period.
Increased environmental pressure placed on naphthalene use in pesticides, dyestuff intermediates and solvent applications has contributed to demand declines in most industrialized regions. The United States, Japan and Western Europe are forecast to experience less than 2% average annual growth through 2017, while developing regions (China, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East) will continue to exhibit the fastest demand growth, ranging between 2% and 4% annually.
Overall, global naphthalene consumption is forecast to increase 2% annually during 2011–2017.