Xylenes are petrochemicals produced by the catalytic reforming and coal carbonization process, which is used in the manufacture of coke fuel. They are used in various industries and medical technologies as solvents. Xylenes occur naturally in coal and wood tar, among others. Xylenes are primarily produced as a part of aromatics that are rich in BTX. They are derived from various sources in a refinery, including pyrolysis gasoline, toluene disproportionation, and reformate. Reformate accounts for 75% share of the mixed xylenes. There are three types of xylenes: ortho-xylene, meta-xylene, and para-xylene.
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Ortho-xylene is a commercial isomer of xylene. It is a hydrocarbon based on benzene, with two methyl substituents bonded to the aromatic ring. Ortho-xylene exists in liquid state at room temperature. It is used extensively for producing Phthalic Anhydride (PAN), primarily in dio-octyl phthalate for PVC. PAN is primarily used to produce plasticizers, which are largely employed in the automobile and construction industries. In addition, ortho xylene is used in solvent-based paints. Ortho xylene is extracted through distillation from xylene stream in a plant designed for para-xylene production. It is a constitutional isomer of m-xylene and p-xylene. Moreover, ortho xylene is produced with its isomers para-xylene and meta-xylene. Friedel-Crafts alkylation of toluene yields a mixture of ortho-xylene. This reaction produces a pure form of ortho-xylene. It is used in alkyd resins that have wide applications in the coating industry. Ortho xylene has a large demand in the petrochemical industry.
Growth in the construction industry coupled with burgeoning development in the automobile industry is expected to drive the demand for ortho-xylene during the forecast period. Additionally, expansion in the paints and adhesive industry is anticipated to fuel demand for ortho-xylene during the next few years. However, acute inhalation or exposure to ortho-xylene in humans causes irritation to eyes and has neurological effects. Furthermore, chronic exposure to ortho-xylenes affects the central nervous system, cardio-vascular system, and kidneys. It reacts violently with oxidants, causing fire and explosion hazards. Thus, governments in various countries have imposed stringent regulations on the usage of ortho xylene and are likely to hamper the ortho-xylene market in the near future.
Prices of xylene are anticipated to decline in Asia due to the weak downstream conditions in the purified terephthalic acid and paraxylene sectors. Global manufacturing of ortho xylene coupled with integrated supply chain and access to feedstock are the key strengths of companies involved in the ortho-xylene market.
Asia Pacific is projected to be the fastest growing regional market during the forecast period due to growth in the chemical industry and rapid industrialization in the region. China dominated the ortho-xylene production in 2011. This trend is expected to continue during the forecast period. Consumption of ortho-xylene in Eastern Europe and Russia is expected to be strong due to the thriving construction industry in these regions.
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Some of the major players in the ortho-xylene market include Creasyn Finechem (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., Doe & Ingalls Inc. (North Carolina), DynaChem Inc., Minda Petrochemicals (P) Limited, Shell Chemicals, Sunoco Chemicals Inc., and Puritan Products, Inc. Some of the major companies plan to establish ortho-xylene projects in China, Taiwan, and Singapore during the forecast period.