Published September 2017
Supply and demand for nitrobenzene throughout the world are closely tied to demand for aniline for methylenebis (4-phenyl isocyanate) (MDI) manufacture. Nitrobenzene is the primary raw material for aniline. Aniline, which itself is used primarily in MDI production, accounts for 98% of world nitrobenzene consumption. Other applications include use as a chemical intermediate for pharmaceuticals, solvents and dyes, and direct use as a solvent.
MDI is consumed along with propylene oxide polyols in polyurethane (PU) foams. These are mostly rigid foams and are used in construction and appliances. A much smaller amount of MDI is used in flexible PU foam used primarily in furniture and transportation. As a result, consumption of MDI, as well as aniline and ultimately nitrobenzene, largely follows the patterns of the leading world economies and depends heavily on construction/remodeling activity (residential and nonresidential), automotive production and manufacture of original equipment.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of nitrobenzene:
The Middle East and CIS/Baltic States are forecast to experience the largest increases in nitrobenzene demand during 2017–22, with average annual growth rates greater than 11%, followed by the United States (5.4%) and China (4.7%). The Middle East is expected to see a substantial growth rate of 28.5% per year as a result of additional MDI capacity that will be added by the end of the forecast period. Additional MDI capacity/production is the predominant factor for increased production and consumption of aniline, although, in some cases the aniline is being imported. The CIS/Baltic States region is projected to have an average annual growth rate of about 11% over the next five years; however, this outcome is only likely if Russia requires the additional nitrobenzene capacity predicted by 2022. Central Europe and Japan are expected to have small declines in aniline demand during the same forecast period.
China is the largest market for nitrobenzene and represents 36% of global consumption in 2017. China is the driving force in Northeast Asia, accounting for over three-fourths of the region’s nitrobenzene demand.
Robust demand for nitrobenzene in developing regions such as China and Southeast Asia over the last five years has been balanced by slower growth in North America and Europe. Overall, China, Western Europe, the United States, and Japan accounted for the vast majority of global consumption in 2017. During the next five years, regional shares of nitrobenzene consumption will remain nearly the same, with the exception of the Middle East, which will experience a significant increase in consumption because of new integrated capacity for nitrobenzene/aniline/MDI.
Markets driving MDI and, hence, nitrobenzene growth include construction/housing and transportation for insulation end uses, and rigid polyurethane foam use. There are no good substitutes for MDI urethane foam in insulation given its application flexibility and “R” (thermal resistance) insulation values.
World nitrobenzene consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of almost 5% over the next five years through 2022. Moreover, there will be continuing strong growth for nitrobenzene, particularly in China and the Middle East, as a result of the continued expansion of integrated nitrobenzene/aniline/MDI plants. Demand for nitrobenzene in the United States is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of almost 5.5% during 2017–22. Strengthening demand in construction/remodeling activity and automotive production, and restoration of commercial inventory chains are economic factors driving this better-than-expected growth. Demand for nitrobenzene in Europe, including Central Europe and CIS, is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.1% during 2017–22. As a region, Asia is expected to experience the largest volume increases for nitrobenzene demand during 2017–22 (expanding at nearly 5% per year). Increasing downstream MDI capacity/production is also a predominant factor for increased production and consumption of nitrobenzene/aniline.