Published August 2015
The oxo process or hydroformylation of olefins with synthesis gas is the principal route to C3-C15 aldehydes, which are converted to alcohols, acids, or other derivatives. By far the most important oxo chemical is n-butyraldehyde, followed by C6-C13 aldehydes for plasticizer alcohols, isobutyraldehyde, valeraldehyde, and C12-C18 aldehydes for detergent alcohols.
Propylene-derived n-butyraldehyde and isobutyraldehyde accounted for approximately 75% of world consumption of oxo chemicals in 2014. High consumption volumes for both alcohol derivatives of n-butyraldehyde, n-butanol and 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH), will continue in the near future, largely as a result of increased consumption of both alcohols in acrylate esters, acetate esters, and plasticizers. 2-EH and n-butanol continue to account for the majority of plasticizer alcohols consumption, together accounting for nearly three-quarters of the global total.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of oxo chemicals:
Demand in most downstream markets for oxo chemicals is largely influenced by general economic conditions. As a result, demand for oxo chemicals largely follows the patterns of the leading world economies. The major end-use markets include construction/remodeling, automotive production, and original equipment manufacture (OEM).
The United States and Western Europe have the most varied oxo chemical consumption of all regions. In most other regions, n-butyraldehyde, isobutyraldehyde, and C7-C13 plasticizer oxo alcohols (aldehyde equivalents) account for nearly all oxo chemical consumption; for n-butyraldehyde this is largely because of 2-EH and, increasingly, n-butanol requirements.
World demand for 2-EH is still largely dependent on DEHP production. However, in some regions, most notably the United States and recently Western Europe, 2-EH consumption is substantially more dependent on production of 2-ethylhexyl acrylate; this shift is expected to continue in the United States, Europe, and Japan, as growth in demand for DEHP shifts to emerging markets. Global growth in DOTP as a substitute plasticizer for DEHP will continue to support 2-EH growth worldwide since this is the main raw material plasticizer alcohol used for DOTP production.
Other plasticizer alcohols such as isononyl alcohol and 2-propylheptanol will also continue to grow as plasticizers derived from these alcohols (such as DINCH, DINP, and DPHP) will compete and substitute with traditional plasticizers. 2-propylheptanol is derived from valeraldehyde.
Asia, Europe, and North America are the largest markets for oxo chemicals, accounting for 95% of world demand in 2014. Demand for oxo chemicals in the United States is expected to grow moderately during 2014–19. Western European consumption of oxo chemicals is forecast to grow only slightly. Japanese consumption is forecast to experience fairly flat growth during 2014-19. Chinese and Other Asian consumption, excluding Japan, is expected to grow fairly robustly during the same period; China, Singapore, India, and Taiwan are the main growth markets in this region. Middle Eastern consumption of oxo chemicals is forecast to grow significantly, albeit from a small base, due in part to increased n-butanol production.
Consumption growth for both n-butanol and 2-EH will continue during 2014–19; however, n-butanol consumption is forecast to grow slightly faster than 2-EH consumption. This is supported by higher n-butanol growth in China and Asia. In the United States and Western Europe, 2-EH will grow at a faster rate than n-butanol.