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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Acetic acid, also known as ethanoic acid, is an organic chemical compound best recognized for giving vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell.
  • Acetic acid is corrosive, and its vapour causes an irritation to the eyes, dry and burning nose, sore throat and congestion to the lungs, although it is a weak acid based on its ability to dissociate in aqueous solutions.

Process

  • Acetic acid can be produced synthetically or from natural sources. Synthetic production includes methanol carbonylation, acetaldehyde oxidation, butane/naphtha oxidation and coal based synthesis gas. It is also produced as a by-product of many reactions from which it is then recovered and recycled.
  • The oxidation of acetaldehyde method was used until recently at the Orica Rhodes NSW site and consists of the direct oxidation of ethylene to acetaldehyde via the Wacker process, followed by the oxidation of acetaldeyde in the presence of manganese acetate, forming acetic acid.

Application

  • The largest consumption of acetic acid is as a raw material to produce vinyl acetate by reaction with ethylene and oxygen or with acetylene in the presence of  palladium catalyst. Vinyl acetate is polymerized to polyvinyl acetate by itself and to other copolymers with other monomers. Acetate polymers are important resins used in paints, adhesives, plastics and textile finishes.
  • Acetic acid is used as an acidulant in a wide range of applications from eletroplating to textiles finishing operation. It is used in the manufacture of materials used in the pharmaceuticals, foods, cosmetics and colorant chemical fields including sorbic acid, dyestuffs and pigments, vitamins, antibiotics, rubber chemicals and flavor & fragrance.

Market

  • The fastest growing region is Asia, in particular China where demand is forecast to increase at 8 to 10 percent per year. As a result, most of the new capacity is targeted for Asia with a number of projects and expansions planned in China and Taiwan.
  • During the past 5 years, approximately 1.2 million metric tons of new demand for acetic acid has developed globally.
  • Although only a small segment presently, it is growing at 4.5 percent per year because of demand for terephthalic acid in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins. The driver here is PET bottles for the carbonated drinks market. Vinyl acetate, the largest market for acetic acid is growing at roughly 3 percent per year.

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