Adipic Acid is an organic carboxylated acid mainly used to produce polymers. It is chiefly used as a monomer for the synthesis of nylon 66. The most important dicarboxylic acid, adipic acid is a white crystalline powder completely soluble in alcohol but not in less polar substances.
Adipic acid is mainly used in the production of nylon for composite materials. These are then used in the automobile components industry. Other uses include paints and coatings, plastic additives, polyurethane resins, low temperature lubricants and synthetic fibers. They are also used as food additives and lend tart taste, firm texture, fizzy flavors and gel-like shape to food.
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Traditional method of adipic acid production comprises of using products derived from petroleum like phenol, cyclohexane and benzene. Alterations in hydrocarbon market have eliminated utilization of phenol leading to widespread use of cyclohexane-based processes.
Synthetic adipic acid adversely affects the environment due to which research is being conducted on alternative techniques to produce bio-based adipic acid e.g. using glucose as a basic feedstock. Bio-based methods result in not only reduced carbon footprint but also lower capital investments and savings in operating costs. Governmental reinforcement through subsidies, loan guarantees and green mandates to manufacturers engaged in production of bio-based alternatives prove beneficial to market growth.
Increasing demand from end-user industries like automotive and footwear for nylon fiber and resins will be the key growth driver in coming years. Growing automobile sector and footwear industries in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries will accelerate demand.
The key challenge for growth in global adipic acid market is fluctuations in pricing of raw materials and strict regulatory framework in regions like US and Europe resulting from growing environmental concerns. Production of adipic acid generates significant quantities of nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas. In fact, adipic acid accounts for about 8% of all human-caused emissions of nitrous oxide in the world.
Adipic acid is mainly utilized for the manufacture of nylon 66 fiber, nylon 66 resin, polyurethane and adipate esters, etc. The application segments of nylon 66, both fiber and resin, constituted more than 80% of the total market share in 2012. This was followed by polyurethane which is used in garments and household moldings. Polyurethane is anticipated to be the fastest growing segment by 2020. The demand for adipate esters as a solvent in paints and coatings is likely to rise in future due to which adipate esters will account for more than $190 million of the total global adipic acid market by 2020.
The Asia Pacific segment bagged the largest share of the global adipic acid market in 2012. This segment is expected to grow the fastest in the near future. Key regional markets of China and India characterized by growing demand for automotive, electronics and footwear products will lead to this growth.
Europe was the second-largest market for adipic acid in 2012, followed by North America. These two regional markets have reached the maturity stage and are not likely to witness exponential growth in future. They are greatly regulated and stress on technology and innovation. This will lead to development of environmentally sustainable products.
Main demand in Rest of the World (ROW) comes from countries like Brazil and Argentina, largely due to the burgeoning automobile market. This demand is likely to surpass 500 kilo tons by 2020.
Global adipic acid manufacturers include Shangdong Haili, Liyoyang Petrochemical, Radici, Rennovia, Asahi Kasei, INVISTA, Rhodia, and BASF, among others. Top four players manufactured more than 60% of the world’s adipic acid in 2012. The main focus of market players for future will be the production of bio-based adipic acid which is bound to replace synthetic adipic acid in most applications. Operators like DSM, Genomatica, etc. are foreseen to break into the bio-based adipic acid market to leverage this opportunity in future.
Information Source: Grand View Research