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Published: November 2012
The oxo process involves production of aldehydes by hydroformylation, which is defined as the addition of synthesis gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) to an olefin. The initial product is most commonly an aldehyde, which can be hydrogenated to the corresponding alcohol, oxidized to the acid or converted to other derivatives. By far the most important oxo chemical is n-butyraldehyde, followed by C6-C13 aldehydes for plasticizer alcohols, isobutyraldehyde and C12-C18 aldehydes for detergent alcohols.
Plasticizer alcohols, including butanols, 2-ethylhexanol and C7-C13 plasticizer oxo alcohols, and, increasingly, 2-propylheptanol, are the largest market for oxo chemicals in all regions; world consumption of plasticizer alcohols is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.8% during 2011–2018.
Valeraldehyde is the fastest-growing oxo chemical; world consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4.8% during 2011–2018, albeit from a relatively small base. New C5 aldehyde capacity is scheduled to come onstream by 2014 in Western Europe. Most of this valeraldehyde will be captively consumed for 2-propylheptanol.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of oxo chemicals:
Asia (including Japan), Europe and North America are the largest markets for oxo chemicals, accounting for 95% of world demand in 2012.
The long-term prospects for oxo chemicals in Western Europe improved considerably during 2005–2008, as consolidations and capacity reductions resulted in improved efficiencies and capacity utilization. The commissioning of plants for 2-propylheptanol and additional isononyl alcohol capacity helped reduce the former reliance on 2-ethylhexanol. Western European consumption of oxo chemicals is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8% during 2011–2018.
Demand for oxo chemicals in the United States is expected to grow moderately, at an average annual rate of 2.8% during 2011–2018.
Consumption in China and Other Asia (excluding Japan) is expected to grow at 5.4% annually during the same period; China, Singapore, India and Taiwan are the main growth markets in this region. Japanese consumption is forecast to experience 0.3% average annual growth during 2011–2018.
Middle Eastern consumption of oxo chemicals is forecast to grow significantly at an average annual rate of 13.0% during 2011–2018, albeit from a small base, largely the result of increased n-butanol/2-ethylhexanol demand for acrylates by 2014.
World demand for oxo chemicals recovered in 2010, but stumbled in some regions, including the United States, the eurozone and Japan, in 2011–2012. Largely as a result of strong demand in China and Other Asia (excluding Japan), world consumption of oxo chemicals grew at an average annual rate of just over 4% during 2008–2012.