Published March 2014
INEOS in the United States, Asahi Kasei in Japan and CNPC Jilin Chemical Group in China are the major players in the global acetonitrile market, with market shares of 26%, 20% and 11%, respectively. These three producers together account for about 64% of global capacity.
World acetonitrile consumption has continued to grow at an average annual rate of 5–6% over the last decade. Particularly in the pharmaceutical and analytical industries, demand has experienced solid growth. A shortage in supply and the consequent peaking of prices led to some demand disruption in 2010. Analytical laboratories and pharmaceutical producers have, where possible, partly switched to alternative solvents to be used for nonsensitive operations such as flushing pipes, cleaning reactors and other applications. However, this has been largely offset by strong demand growth in China and India.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of acetonitrile:
The pharmaceutical industry is the largest end use for acetonitrile and uses it as a reagent, reaction solvent or extraction solvent. Acetonitrile is used as a starting material to synthesize vitamins A and B1, cortisone, carbonate drugs and some amino acids. Moreover, acetonitrile is also used as a solvent for DNA synthesis and in the production of insulin and antibiotics, as well as tertiary-generation cephalosporins (cefriaxone sodium, cefoperazone sodium). The latter are used to treat infections in the lower respiratory tract, skin tissue and bacterial septicemia. The use of acetonitrile in pharmaceutical products for diseases has grown rapidly in recent years, boosted by improved living standards in industrialized countries.
The second-largest use of acetonitrile is as a mobile phase in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC systems have major growth prospects in the separation of chiral systems in the pharmaceutical industry. During the last couple of years a shortage of acrylonitrile has motivated some analytical labs to switch to UPLC (ultraperformance liquid chromatography). The use of UPLC instead of HPLC allows greatly reduced solvent usage (up to 70% less), but also implies significantly higher costs. Therefore, the introduction of UPLC on the market is not having a major effect on acetonitrile demand. Acetonitrile is also used as a solvent in UV spectroscopy and polarography.
World consumption is forecast to continue to grow at a rate of about 6% per year over the next five years. The highest growth rates (about 9–10% per year) are expected for China and India, because of the increasing production of engineered drugs, generic pharmaceuticals and pesticides in these countries. In Europe (including Switzerland), Japan and the United States, the average annual growth rate for 2013–2018 is estimated at around 1.5%. Consumption of acetonitrile for pharmaceuticals will continue to grow during the next five years.