Published October 2017
Bromine is used in numerous inorganic and organic compounds. Since it is an element, it cannot be substituted by other materials without the properties of the compound being changed, often significantly. However, some bromine compounds, especially organic compounds, are susceptible to substitution by products with completely different chemistries. Important attributes for its use in inorganic compounds include its oxidation potential and its relatively high molecular weight (compared with chlorine).
In 2017, four bromine producers (Albemarle, Chemtura [now owned by LANXESS], Jordan Bromine, and ICL) accounted for 89% of the total global production capacity. There has been considerable consolidation of bromine producers in China. Major producers are highly integrated, producing a wide variety of brominated end-use chemicals and intermediates, primarily from bromine or from hydrobromic acid produced as a by-product of bromination.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of bromine compounds:
The largest application for bromine-based compounds is in the production of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), accounting for 48% (100% bromine content) of total global consumption in 2017. The flame retardant market is affected by regulations in two countervailing ways. First, there are international, regional, and national fire safety regulations and flammability standards for flame retardants that are used in the construction, transportation, and electrical and electronics industries. Second, government regulations also affect individual chemical types that are deemed to have deleterious effects on the environment and human health. Because the market is global, legislation in one region of the world has an impact on the type and use of flame retardants in another. Much of the environmental and toxicological concerns over the use of BFRs have been initiated in Europe. Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is no longer allowed for use as a flame retardant in certain regions—Japan (2014), the European Union (2015), and Canada (year-end 2016). It is being replaced mainly by brominated polymeric flame retardants.
Clear brine fluids (CBFs) constitute the second-largest end-use market, accounting for 21% (100% bromine content) of 2017 global consumption of bromine-based compounds, most of which is used in North America. CBFs are used for the production of crude oil in deep, high-pressure wells where conventional drilling muds can plug the formations; there is also increased use for the development of nonconventional sources such as deepwater wells and oil sands. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the leading consuming regions.
Water treatment accounted for 7% (on a 100% bromine content basis) of the global consumption of bromine-based compounds in 2017. The majority is consumed in China and the United States, with a smaller amount consumed in Western Europe. Products used in this segment are brominated hydantoins and sodium/ammonium bromides. Consumption is broken down nearly equally between hydantoins and bromides.
Consumption of hydrogen bromide (HBr) used as a catalyst in the production of purified terephthalic acid (TPA) accounts for nearly 6% (100% bromine content) of the 2017 global consumption of bromine-based compounds. TPA is used in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production; PET is ultimately used in packaging and fibers.
Consumption of methyl bromide (bromomethane) accounts for less than 2% (100% bromine content) of the 2017 world consumption of bromine-based compounds. Included in this is dibromomethane (methylene dibromide), which has different use than methyl bromide. Consumption of methyl bromide as a fumigant is declining, as this compound is considered a Class I ozone-depleting substance under the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.
Other applications include use as intermediates in the production of multiple organic compounds such as pharmaceuticals (e.g., dextromorphan hydrobromide, 5-bromophthalimide, pyridine hydrobromide), agricultural/pesticides, dyes, and lithium bromide (for use in absorption chillers).