CONSTANCE, Germany - Ceresana has published a new study on butanol, a higher alcohol mainly manufactured from propylene. Butanol and its derivatives are important ingredients of paints and varnishes, especially in waterborne formulations. According to this most recent report by Ceresana, global demand for butanol rose by 2.7 percent per annum between 2005 and 2013. The market research institute, however, is expecting surplus production of butanol on the global market in 2021.

The by far largest share of butanol output, almost 1.5 million tonnes in 2013, is consumed in the production of acrylate, which serves as solvent in paints, but also is used in detergents, adhesives and textiles. Manufacturers of acetate utilize the second-largest amount of butanol. Acetate is a solvent used in car finishes and an ingredient in cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs. Glycol ethers based on butanol are highly suitable for the use as solvent in waterborne varnishes, given their miscibility with water. Almost 12 percent of total global butanol output is directly used as solvents. Also, phthalates manufactured from butanol play an important role as plasticizers in the processing of PVC.

In 2013, Chinese processors consumed about the same amount of butanol as Western Europe and North America taken together. Whereas the consumption of butanol will rise but moderately in established industrialized countries, the construction, wood processing and automotive industries in China will continue their dynamic development. Until 2021, demand for butanol in China is projected to rise to approximately 1.64 million tonnes; thus, China will continue to expand its position as market leader even further. “There is significant competition for export markets that are still increasing demand for butanol,” explained Oliver Kutsch, CEO of Ceresana. “Apart from China, smaller markets like Brazil also fall into this category. Yet as these countries already possess sufficient capacities to satisfy domestic demand or are increasing output, surplus production is rising. Countries reporting an excessive output of butanol are the USA in particular, but also Russia, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Africa.”

Butanol manufactured from biomass by fermentative processes offers considerable potential for the biofuel industry. Compared to ethanol-based biofuel, butanol has a higher energy content. Additionally, it is easily miscible with diesel and gasoline and can be combusted in conventional, unmodified gasoline engines. Bioethanol, however, already is an established biofuel in Europe and North America, and a changeover of production facilities to manufacture biobutanol would be expensive. Another possibility is converting the bioethanol that is being produced into butanol. Adequate technologies, however, are still in the initial stages of development.

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