Globally, around 5.5. billions of gallons of glycols are produced every year and are growing at the rate of approximately 200 million gallons per year. North America consumes a fifth of the total production. Increasing demand from end-use industries, mainly for manufacturing polyester fabric and plastic bottles is boosting production of diols in the world. The U.S. uses about 1.1 billion gallons of it each year.
Currently, disposal of glycol by releasing to surface water bodies such as rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans is allowed by EPA. But, adoption of such disposal practice is a significant threat, since direct exposure to the product is toxic to the biotic system. Moreover, glycol removes and breaks down oxygen, creating an antagonistic living environment. This is due to heavy contamination with metals such as cadmium and lead, along with esters and other chemicals that create their own harms.
Ethylene glycol can be used for applications that require chemical intermediates for solvent couplers, resins, freezing point depression, humectants, chemical intermediates, and other solvents. These applications are important to manufacture a broad range of products, including deicing fluids, resins, automotive coolants and antifreeze, heat transfer fluids, asphalt emulsions and latex paints, water-based adhesives, electrolytic capacitors, leather, paper, and textile fibers.
Traditionally, methanol (methyl alcohol) was used as an engine coolant and antifreeze. Methanol was widely used in windshield fluids, but due to new REACH legislative in Europe, the utilization of methanol was limited to 5%, and in future, it is expected to be reduced to 3%. Methanol is evaporated and needs regular refilling to avoid freezing of the coolant due to very low atmospheric temperatures.
The availability of bio-based glycols manufactured by ethylene and propylene diol molasses as alternatives in various applications combined with volatility in raw material (petrochemicals and crude oils) prices is expected to limit market growth over the forecast period. Global manufacturing companies are engaged in developing innovative solutions in the form of new products, increasing processing efficiency, developing tailored supply chain solutions or support for quality requirements.
The global production is based on the direct ethylene oxidation via oxygen or air, with more preference to oxygen in larger commercial units as it provides higher output in less downtime. The manufacturing methods include:
- Hydrolysis of Ethylene Chlorohydrin
- Ethylene carbonate process
- Hydrolysis of Ethylene oxide (Ring opening)
- From Synthesis Gas
Major glycol manufacturers include BASF SE, AkzoNobel N.V., Clariant AG, Huntsman Corporation and other independent players. Nowadays various products are aimed at recycling and reuse, to comply with stringent environmental and sustainability regulations, especially in North America and Europe. Ethanol is increasingly used as feedstock for the production of ethylene. This "green" or reprocessed ethylene is used to make other major downstream derivatives such as polyethylene, styrene, ethylbenzene, ethylene dichloride, and others.
Asia Pacific dominated the global industry due to high level of technological advancements in the automotive sector in China and India. Ethylene glycol demand in Asia Pacific captured the maximum share, owing to its wide range of applications due to its versatile properties. Some of the industry’s leading players including BASF, Dow Chemical, Royal Dutch Shell, Huntsman International LLC, SABIC, AkzoNobel, DuPont, and Reliance Industries dominate the global market. Moreover, a significant number of regional players are also active participants in the market, which makes it a highly competitive.
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