Maleic anhydride is an organic compound with a strong acrid odor is colorless and appears in white crystalline flakes. It is manufactured commercially by oxidation of butane or benzene. Maleic anhydride is widely used in the manufacturing of unsaturated polyester resins. These resins are used in general construction, automobile bodies, pipes and ducts, corrosion resistant tanks, paints and coatings, bathroom fixtures, furniture, radar domes, and fiberglass reinforced plastics.
Maleic anhydride is a crucial raw material for manufacturing unsaturated polyester resins. Building & construction, automotive/transportation, pipes & tanks, marine, wind energy and electrical & electronics are the key end users. Manufacturing of corrosion resistant tanks, paints and coatings, bathroom fixtures and fiberglass-reinforced plastics are the other applications. Robust growth in end user markets has resulted in an increased demand for unsaturated polyester resins. Unsaturated polyester resins are widely used in structural and decorative applications as their low cost of manufacturing, excellent service temperatures and weight advantage make them a better substitute to metals. The global maleic anhydride market was valued at USD 3.8 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.4% from 2012 to 2018.
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Unsaturated polyester resins, BDO, additives (Lubricants and oil), copolymers, etc. are major application of maleic anhydride. In 2012, unsaturated polyester resins were the largest application segment accounting for over 49% of the global maleic anhydride market. BDO was the second largest outlet for maleic anhydride in 2012. Other key applications for maleic anhydride include the production of agricultural chemicals, lubricant additives, copolymers, malic acid, fumaric acid, surfactants and plasticizers. Maleic anhydride is also widely used as a chemical intermediate in multiple industrial processes.
The Asia Pacific region was the largest market for maleic anhydride with over 55% share of total volume consumed in 2012. Developing countries such as China, India and South Korea are the major markets for its derivatives. Growing automobile industry in emerging countries is expected to remain a key factor driving the use of maleic anhydride derivatives. The rise in disposable income, improved standards of living, strong economic conditions and growing population in China and South Korea are other factors contributing to market growth. Additives and copolymers are also gaining popularity in developing countries, and have high potential for deep market penetration. In addition, most maleic anhydride manufacturing companies are now shifting focus towards the Asia Pacific market and setting up new production plants. This would further the maleic anhydride market in this region. The per capita income of both India and China has shown an upward growth trend since 2009. With the increase in per capita income, the purchasing power of individuals has also increased resulting in the growing demand for unsaturated polyester resins and 1, 4-Butanediol.
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A vital raw material used for producing maleic anhydride is butane or benzene, which is derived from natural gas or crude oil. Crude oil is highly volatile in its pricing, and this volatility can further be seen in its downstream derivatives. Instability in the prices of non-renewable resources coupled with environmental issues is expected to be major restraining factor for the production of petroleum based maleic anhydride.
BP Chemicals, Huntsman and BASF SE have established a strong presence across the maleic anhydride market value chain. Typical end user industries for maleic anhydride are construction, transportation, electrical, solvents, agricultural chemicals, synthetic fibers and roofing and other such segments. Companies such as Ashland, Huntsman, BASF SE are forward integrated companies that extract raw materials for maleic anhydride production, besides being involved in manufacturing, distribution and consumption of maleic anhydride for a few applications. Huntsman Corporation, Polynt SpA, Lanxess AG, Sasol-Huntsman, Flint Hills Resources, Ashland, DSM N.V., etc. are some of the key manufacturers of maleic anhydride and its products.