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Information at a Glance

General
  • Caprolactam is an organic compound which is a lactam of 6-aminohexanoic acid (e-aminohexanoic acid, aminocaproic acid).
  • Caprolactam is produced as clear liquid form and as a crystalline form.
  • Caprolactam occurs as white, hygroscopic flakes or crystals with a distinctive odour.
  • Caprolactam is soluble in water, cyclohexane, chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Process

  • There are several different processes for producing caprolactam[1, 2], such as the DSM/HPO method, BASF-NO reduction method, and the SNIA toluene method.
  • Caprolactam is mostly produced from benzene through three intermediates; cyclohexane, cyclohexanone and cyclohexanone oxime.
  • Most of the caprolactam is synthesised from cyclohexanone via an oximation process using hydroxylammonium sulfate followed by catalytic rearrangement using the Beckmann rearrangement process step.
  • The recovery process of caprolactam from the reaction mixture starts with neutralization, which results in the formation of a crude caprolactam top phase and an aqueous ammonium sulfate layer.
  • The crude caprolactam layer is extracted with an organic solvent in the so-called forward extraction, which is followed by back-extraction with water.

Uses

  • The primary industrial use of caprolactam is as a monomer in the production of nylon-6.
  • Caprolactam is a raw material (monomer) for the polyamide-6 production with a wide application in the artificial fibre industry as well as a structural material in the motorization and electrotechnics industry.
  • Small amounts of caprolactam are also used in cross-linking for polyurethanes and in the synthesis of lysine.

Technology

  • Anionic polymerization of e-caprolactam (CL) in an organic solvent is to obtain functional polyamide-6 nanoparticles in miniemulsion technique.
  • The Polymerisation of Caprolactam together with tha catalyst and stabilizer was preferably carried out in a one stage technology using VK tube reactor.
  • Conventional caprolactam technology is based on the key intermediate cyclohexanone, which is usually produced by the oxidation of cyclohexane, but can also be made from phenol or toluene.

Market

  • The nylon fibres market is mature at around 1%/year growth while demand for engineering resins is much more robust at 4-5%/year. Overall long-term global growth for caprolactam is estimated in the range of 2-2.5%/year.
  • Global trade in caprolactam will decrease as Asia becomes more self-sufficient.
  • The long-term average caprolactam market price is used as the yardstick for evaluating and comparing the economic feasibility of building a new production plant.
  • The outlook for the caprolactam industry is about average for a mature commodity chemical in the recovering economy.
  • China is expected to continue to be an importer of caprolactam. China is expected to be able to produce 660,000 tonnes/year but with demand estimated at 1.0-1.1m tonnes, imports of 400,000-500,000 tonnes will still be needed.

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