The major applications of nitrobenzene are aniline, pesticides, synthetic rubber and others. The major end-use industries that use nitrobenzene include agriculture, pharmaceuticals, automotive, construction and cosmetics.
Aniline accounts more than 95% of the global nitrobenzene consumption and hence the demand-supply of the product closely follows the trends observed for aniline and in turn the polyurethanes sector.
The major applications of aniline are for Methylene Diphenyl Diisocyanate (MDI) production almost accounting for more than 97%. Other applications like chemical intermediates in paints & coatings and rubber processing are small outlet less than 3% of the global consumption. The major end-user industries that use aniline include the Construction, Automotive, Original Equipment Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals amongst others. In the construction sector, the rigid polyurethane foams are used whereas flexible MDI foams are used in the automotive sector.
MDI is primarily used in manufacturing of polyurethane foams such as rigid foams & molded flexible foams. It is also used for making flexible plastics. Aniline, usually derived from nitrobenzene is reacted with formaldehyde, to produce MDI which is further reacted with a polyol to form polyurethanes. Excellent insulating properties and rigidity of MDI makes it ideal for use in construction, automobile and refrigeration industry as not only does the material protect and dampens noise, but also helps in saving energy through heat insulation. Other applications of MDI are in packaging, paints & adhesives, and others.
MDI production is driven by three major players as they collectively account for around 65% of global capacities. Recently, in 2017, Sadara Chemicals, a JV between Saudi Aramco and The Dow Chemical Company established a 400kt/year plant in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Globally, Asia-Pacific region holds the largest market share with China being the leading country, followed by North America and Europe. Historically, the MDI market grew by 4.5% CAGR for the period 2011-2015 and is expected to grow at around 5% CAGR for upcoming years until 2025.
The demand pattern of nitrobenzene differs from less than 1.5% in the mature economies to more than 6% in China and other Asia-Pacific countries. Prismane Consulting estimates the overall global consumption of nitrobenzene to grow at a CAGR of 5% in the long-term forecast till 2025 in line with demand growth of aniline and MDI.