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 accounting for 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.
The route for production of aniline used by most of the companies is reduction of nitrobenzene where benzene is mixed with nitric acid, hydrogenated and then purified by distillation. 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 more than 4% CAGR for the period 2011-2017 and is expected to grow annually at 5% until 2025.
The demand pattern of Aniline 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 aniline to grow at a CAGR of 5% in the long-term forecast till 2030 in line with demand growth of MDI.