Published September 2015
Propylene trimer and tetramer are oligomers produced by the polymerization of propylene. These olefins are branched and frequently referred to as nonene and dodecene, respectively. Nonene is the more commonly accepted name for propylene trimer; however, tetramer is the preferred name for the branched C12 olefin, because this name serves to distinguish it from 1-dodecene, the linear alpha-olefin derived from ethylene.
Production of nonene has been particularly low in Russia since 2013. Moreover, depending on market conditions, some refinery operators might find it more profitable to divert their propylene feeds to higher-value markets in polypropylene or into the fuel pool, rather than produce more nonene or tetramer. Western Europe accounted for about 44% of global demand for nonene, followed by North America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Central and South America. During 2010-14, demand was negatively impacted by a further decline in consumption of nonene for nonylphenol.
The following pie charts show world consumption of nonene and tetramer:
Isodecyl alcohol accounted for more than 50% of global demand for nonene in 2014, with Exxon being the dominant player. Other important applications include nonylphenol and neodecanoic acid. Future growth is highly dependent on the markets in these core applications. Production of nonylphenol will show some growth only in geographical areas where cost-effectiveness is the primary objective and the use of nonylphenolethoxylates (NPEs) is not restricted. China and India are the key players for nonylphenol due to the use of NPEs in their large textile industries. This situation could change if some form of legislation is introduced. Chinese textile products are exported to many countries, especially Europe where restriction of NP and NPEs in textile products has been proposed. Demand is expected to stabilize in North America and Europe, where the bulk of the decrease has already taken place.
There are different consumption patterns in the different regions of the world. In North America and Western Europe, oxo chemicals account for the bulk of demand, while nonylphenol has a much higher share in Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Other Asia.
The North American and Western European markets for tetramer-based lubricating oil additives are flat, but there will likely be continued growth in the export market for formulated lube oil additive packages containing detergents based on dodecylphenol produced in these regions. Until now there has also been significant export of tetramer to Asia for use by the few remaining producers of dodedecylbenzene. However this is going to change as this market is expected to fall in Asia as well. Dodedecylbenzene is the precursor of dodedecylbenzene sulfonates (i.e., branched alkylbenzene sulfonates, also known as BAS). This product is used as a surfactant in household detergents in less-developed countries. BAS is very slow to biodegrade and is increasingly being displaced by other surfactants that have better biodegradability.
Over the forecast period, demand for nonene is expected to increase at an average annual rate of about 1%. Consumption growth is forecast to be most significant in Asia, driven by the end markets neodecanoic acid and isodecyl alcohol. Over the forecast period, demand for tetramer is expected to increase at an average annual rate of about 1.1%. Consumption growth is forecast to be most significant in Asia, followed by Central and South America and Europe.