Xylenes are petrochemicals produced by catalytic reforming and coal carbonization in the manufacture of coke fuel. They are used in various industries and medical technology as a solvent. It occurs naturally in coal, wood tar and coal among others. Xylenes are mainly produced as a part of the BTX aromatics. They are derived from various sources within a refinery including pyrolysis gasoline, toluene disproportionation and reformate among others. Reformate accounts for over three fourths of mixed xylenes market. There are three types of xylenes, viz., ortho-xylene, meta xylene and para xylene.
Ortho-xylene is a commercial isomer of xylene. It is a hydrocarbon based on benzene with two methyl substituents bonded to the aromatic ring. It is liquid at room temperature. It is used extensively for producing phthalic anhydride (PAN)-primarily dio-octyl phthalate for PVC. The major use for PAN is for producing plasticizers which are largely used in automobile and construction industry.
In addition, it is used in solvent based paints. It is extracted by means of distillation from xylene stream in a plant designed for para-xylene production. It is a constitutional isomer of m-xylene and p-xylene. Moreover, it is produced with its isomers paraxylene, metaxylene and ethylbenzene. Friedel Craft’s alkylation of toluene yields a mixture of ortho-xylene .This reaction gives a pure form of o-xylene. Furthermore, it is used in alkyd resins having wide applications in the coating industry. It has a large demand in the petrochemical industry.
The growing construction industry coupled with burgeoning development in the automobile industry is expected to drive the demand for ortho-xylene within the forecast period. Additionally, the growing paints and adhesive industry is expected to fuel the demand for ortho-xylene further over the next few years. However, acute inhalation or exposure to ortho-xylene in humans results in irritation of eyes and neurological effects. Furthermore, chronic exposure of ortho-xylenes results in central nervous system effects, cardio-vascular and kidney effects. It reacts violently with oxidants causing fire and explosion hazard. Thus, stringent regulations on use of ethylene are expected to hamper the ortho-xylene market in near future.
In Asia, prices of xylene are anticipated to weaken due to weak downstream conditions in the purified terephthalic acid and paraxylene sectors. Global manufacturing coupled with supply chain and access to feedstock are the key strengths of the companies involved in the ortho-xylene market.
Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing regional market within the forecast period on account of the growing chemical industry and in turn, rapid industrialization. China dominated the otho-xylene production in 2011 and this trend is expected to continue within the forecast period. In India, Reliance Industries is a manufacturer of ortho-xylene with a capacity of 150 KTA. Consumption of ortho-xylene in Eastern Europe and Russia is expected to be strong on account of the thriving construction industry.
The major players in the ortho-xylene market are Creasyn Finechem (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., Doe & Ingalls of North Carolina Inc., DynaChem Inc, Minda Petrochemicals Ltd, Shell Chemicals, Sonoco Chemicals, U.S. Petrochemical Industries Ltd. and Puritan Products, Inc. among others. Ortho-xylene projects by major companies are planned in China, Taiwan and Singapore within the forecast period.
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