For someone who has nothing to do with chemistry, as most of us are, N-methyl 2-pyrrolidone (NMP) sounds like a wizard’s spell. However, there is no belittling what this compound is able to accomplish. It has touched upon multiple sectors like oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, electronics, paints & coatings, and agrochemicals, among others; and has proved its worth in all of them.
NMP is used in wide range of applications including oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, electronics, paints & coatings, and agrochemicals. It makes itself increasingly useful for the purpose of re-refining the lubricating oil. In addition, it helps in improving the viscosity index and oil performance. This boosts its demand in the oil and gas market. When it comes to electronics, NMP is used for degreasing and cleaning, and as a photoresist stripper, along with being used as solvent in the production of epoxy and polyurethane coatings in printed circuit boards. These wide range of applications across industries gives a tremendous push to its demand, so much so that, The global n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) market is expected to reach USD 1.79 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.
What Is NMP?
NMP is a polar aprotic solvent with good solvency with a wide range of organic and inorganic compounds. NMP has high chemical and thermal stability and is miscible in water at all temperatures. NMP production includes two key reactions: esterification and hydrogenolysis of maleic anhydride, which produces gamma-butyrolactone (GBL). In the next step, amination (a separate reaction) converts ammonia and methanol to monomethyl amine (MMA). Lastly, GBL and MMA react and yield NMP.
N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) is generally manufactured by reacting gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) with an excessive pure or aqueous methylamine in a high-pressure tube reactor (6-12 MPa). The nature of this reaction is exothermic and often carried out under adiabatic conditions with reactor temperatures in the range of 250 – 400 ºC. The resulting product mixture is decompressed and distilled. Through this method, NMP yield is normally more than 97%.
What Makes It So Important?
One-word answer to the above question is - Applications. Assessing the applications is the key to assessing its importance. NMP is used across industries mainly in the pharmaceutical, electronics & oil & gas industry among others.
Oil & Gas Industry
Oil & gas segment uses NMP in various applications among which butadiene recovery, BTX extraction, and lube oil purification are the major ones. Oil & gas refers to petrochemical industry, where the downstream operations (refining process) mainly consumes NMP. In oil & gas, downstream operations are expected to boost in the coming years.
In pharmaceutical segment, NMP, which is also called as Pharmasolve, is mainly used as a solvent in drug delivery systems, as it is a very strong solubilizing agent, and also as a penetration enhancer.
As noted above, NMP is used as solvent in production of conformal coatings for PCBs. This makes it useful for the electronics equipment used in automotive industry. Most of the manufacturing activities are carried in Asia, it contributes the overall industry growth owing to the infrastructure support and necessary equipment.
Applications form the basis for the rising demand in the NMP market. However, NMP market faces several retardants to its growth as well.
In pharmaceutical segment, there are few restrictions on NMP usage where human NMP contact happens. The restrictions are mainly on dermal and oral exposure to NMP. This is expected to act as a restraint to the market. Due to the unavailability of exactly similar substitute to NMP these regulatory restrictions are expected to leave limited impact on the NMP market.
Usage of NMP in excess amount possesses several potential threats to humans. Owing to these factors, certain regulatory bodies such as EPA, ECHA have imposed restrictions on the usage of NMP in particular products over certain limits. For instance, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has identified NMP as a reproductive toxin under Proposition 65 and established maximum allowable dose levels (MADLs) for NMP of 17,000 μg/day for dermal contact and 3,200 μg/day for inhalation exposures.
Although, retardants such as the harmful effects and the ensued restrictions are supposed to have the negative effect, positive research is going on to develop less toxic variant of N-methyl 2-pyrrolidone (NMP).
The Asia-Pacific & Europe regions signify ample growth potential for the market, mainly due to, technological advancements, industrial growth, economical growth and low cost of production in countries like China, India, Japan, Brazil and others. Asia has been converted into a hub, with developing economies such as China and India leading the growth. New refinery projects coupled with expansion in the current ones is further fueling the refinery business in the region.
Competition As It Is…
Companies in NMP market have a presence across the value chain. It does not signify the forward or backward integration, but it denotes that companies have their own raw material supplies as well as they supply end product that is NMP to the end user. Companies have developed capacities through backward forward integration or in-house capacity development.
BASF SE, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Eastman Chemical Company, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, and Ashland Inc., among others are some of the key players in the market.
A draft TSCA risk evaluation report of the solvent N-methyl 2-pyrrolidone (NMP) found that the substance poses an unreasonable risk to workers and consumers under certain applications, via inhalation and dermal contact. But it did not identify significant risk to the environment or to consumer or occupational non-users (ONUs).
European Union (EU) have classified NMP as category 2 developmental toxicant. In addition, commercial use of NMP in non-cosmetic products has been restricted to 5%.
In-depth report on global n-methyl 2-pyrrolidone (NMP) market by Grand View Research:
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