Isobutene as a chemical is bound by stringent regulatory norms owing to its extremely toxic property. Key regulatory bodies influencing isobutene market dynamics include Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), Clean Air Act (CAA).
Increasing groundwater contamination due to leakage of MTBE along with growing demand for alternatives such as ethanol for gasoline blending is also expected to impact market growth negatively. The U.S. EPA has laid stringent standards for fuel & additives, complying to which the regulatory body had decided to ban MTBE to be used for gasoline blending in the nation. However, MTBE is still used for gasoline blending across Asia and Middle East.
"Key regulations and impact"
REACH & ECHA
Isobutene is classified as dangerous and highly flammable according to the criteria of regulation EC No. 1272/2008.
It is known to build up electrostatic charges and may cause frostbites along with slight irritation to the respiratory organs.
This chemical is considered hazardous by the 2012 OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200)
Code of Federal Regulations 29 CFR 1910.1200 classifies isobutene as a hazardous chemical
It is listed under the toxic and flammable substances for accidental release prevention. Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), as amended by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, establishes a list of substances which, if present in a process in a quantity in excess of a threshold, would require that the facility establish a risk management program to prevent chemical accidents, prepare a risk management plan, and submit the plan to EPA.
H302: Harmful if swallowed.
H315: Causes skin irritation.
H319: Causes serious eye irritation.
H336: May cause drowsiness or dizziness.
H341: Suspected of causing genetic defects.
H351: Suspected of causing cancer.
H370: Causes damage to respiratory system, central nervous system.
H372: Causes damage to liver, central nervous system through prolonged or repeated exposure.
H411:Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects
However, there has been initiatives by companies such as Bioenergies to develop isobutene from bio-based sources. The company employed Linde for designing the facility at their refinery site in Eastern Germany. In September 2016, Bioenergies and Clariant announced the first pilot production of isobutene from wheat straw hydrolysate. Such initiatives are expected to realign the industry focus from traditional production processes to more sustainable ways.
Furthermore, migrating from petrochemical feedstock to bio-based sources will also open up new avenues for the use of isobutene. Considering, the U.S.’s ban on MTBE as a blending fuel in gasoline due to ground water contamination, a greener MTBE chemical can overcome such challenges and counter ethanol, which is gradually gaining importance.
However, the industry still faces challenges in terms of operational costs and yield efficiencies associated with bio-based production routes. Significant improvements aimed at sourcing green chemical feedstock (which contribute to a large portion of production costs), reducing supply inefficiencies, technological collaborations and strategically locating manufacturing plants are touted to bring short-term relief to the shift towards bio-isobutene.
In-depth report on global isobutene market by Grand View Research: