Xylenes are aromatic, colorless liquids needed, e.g., for PET plastics, PVC plasticizers, fuels and solvents. In the now available analysis of the global market for xylene, the market research institute Ceresana provides data concerning individual xylene isomers: for the first time, markets for para-, ortho- and metaxylene split by important countries and regions are analyzed separately in a single study. Additional analyses cover corresponding application areas.
Ceresana expects global demand for xylenes to increase considerably in the future: Aggregated consumption of p-, o- and m-xylene will rise by about 4.5% p.a. until 2021. Decisive motor for the growth of the global xylene market is the development of Asia-Pacific, which accounts for more than three quarters of total market volume. This region will see the by far highest increase of absolute market volume until 2021.
Paraxylene is the most important product on the market for xylenes. In 2013, revenues generated with this product totaled US$51 billion. Paraxylene is mainly processed into terephthalic acid (TPA), which in turn is largely utilized to manufacture PET. The largest sales market is the segment polyester fibers, in Asia-Pacific in particular, which saw a strong upturn in recent years. Second largest application are plastic PET containers, especially plastic bottles. Besides good growth prospects on downstream markets, demand for TPA has also been able to profit from the substitution of dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) as alternative feedstock for PET production.
India offers considerable growth potential for the TPA industry. Given the dynamic growth of the PET industry in past years, import demand for TPA rose significantly: Import volume increased to 0.9 million tonnes in 2013. In the future, the gap between demand and domestic production is to be narrowed by new TPA facilities. Indian demand for paraxylene will profit from this development. Ceresana expect India to become the second largest consumer of paraxylene by 2018, after China and surpassing South Korea.
Even though DMT is, in general, as suitable for PET production as is TPA, the use of TPA is more cost efficient due to technical reasons. This fact is mirrored by global demand for paraxylene in the production of DMT that fell by more than half between 2005 and 2013. In the course of closure of several facilities, global production capacity of DMT fell considerably. But given its specific characteristics, DMT will remain important in certain applications such as films and engineering plastics.
About 94% of worldwide demand for orthoxylene originate in the production of phthalic anhydride (PAN). The most important applications of PAN are the production of PVC plasticizers and unsaturated polyester resins. Existing environmental and health concerns regarding phthalate-based plasticizers are limiting the growth potential of PAN.
Global production of metaxylene is limited to few manufacturers and accounts for an only small share of global xylenes production. The most important application is the processing into isophthalic acid (IPA), which is used in the manufacturing of PET bottles. IPA is also added to unsaturated polyester resins in order to improve their technical properties.
The majority of global xylene output originates in refineries. Catalytic reforming yields so-called reformate, which is rich in the aromatic compounds benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX). The raw xylene obtained contains the isomers ortho-, meta- and paraxylene as well as ethylbenzene. This mixture can be used to increase the octane rating of fuels and as a solvent for paints, degreasing agents, adhesives, sealants, and care products. Yet the highest demand is recorded for the individual isomers that can be separated from this xylene mixture.
Global demand for Xylene will rise