Published May 2014
Dimethylformamide (DMF) is a clear, colorless, water-soluble liquid that is used primarily as a dipolar aprotic solvent. DMF is miscible with water in all proportions and is a powerful solvent for a variety of organic, inorganic and resin products.
The four largest world producers of DMF are Chinese companies, all operating plants only in China; together these producers account for nearly half of the total global capacity. The world DMF market continues to be oversupplied. Existing capacity (as of 2013) is more than sufficient to meet world demand for the next ten years. However, it is possible that several older and less efficient plants will be closed, helping producers achieve better profit margins.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of dimethylformamide:
China is not only the largest producer but is also the largest consumer (accounting for 72% of global consumption in 2013). Consumption in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan is flat to declining, while consumption in Other Asian countries is relatively small but growing rapidly.
The DMF business is highly competitive, and the geographic scope of the market is worldwide. There is a substantial trade flow as DMF can be shipped easily. Independent distributors are important players. Prices do not vary significantly with end-use applications. Access to low-cost carbon monoxide is essential to profitability.
Regulatory pressures (e.g., REACH in the European Union) are driving customers to look for alternatives to DMF. Large consuming companies are developing solvent selection and replacement guides. Although dipolar aprotic solvents have no satisfactory alternative, the general tendency is to replace solvents like DMF, N,N-dimethylacetamide (DMAc) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) with less suspect alternatives.
In the absence of a one-on-one substitute for DMF, customers are trying to reformulate; for some applications emulsifiers might be used instead of solvent. In other applications, such as pharmaceuticals, there is less flexibility to reformulate and therefore, these markets are less affected by the drive to move away from DMF.
Global consumption is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 3.5% during 2013–2018. Factors hampering growth include regulatory measures and solvent recycling. Recycling solvents is quite common, reducing the need for virgin solvents. DMF solvent recovery is practiced in many industries, including polyurethane synthetic leather manufacturing, polyurethane elastic filament (spandex) production, acrylic fiber production, and pharmaceutical and food production plants.