Linear Alpha Olefins (LAOs) are straight-chain hydrocarbons. They are characterized by a double bond in the terminal or alpha position. The production of linear alpha-olefins (LAOs) yields an entire range of even-numbered carbon chain-length LAOs varying from four carbons (butene-1) to more than thirty carbons (expressed as C30+).
The industrially important alpha-olefins are
The biggest outlet for LAOs are their use as comonomers for polyethylene production while other important end-uses include lubricants, plasticizers, oil-field & fine chemicals, detergent intermediates, lubricants, polybutene-1, pulp & paper and additives amongst others.
The current global demand for total LAOs has more than doubled, from 2.0 million tons in 1995. Historically, the overall demand witnessed an aggregate growth rate of 4.0% in this time period, mainly supported by the strong demand from polyethylene and detergent alcohols as well as lubricants. The demand for LAOs was affected in 2008 with the market contracting by almost 5%, however, the market recovered in 2009 and by 2010; the demand bounced back to pre-economic downturn levels.
Historically demand for LAOs has mainly come in from the polyethylene segment, closely followed by detergents and lubricants. The demand from polyethylene has increased from 40% in 1995 to nearly 60% in 2013, as the global demand for polyethylene witnessed strong growth rates over the past decade. This has resulted in a lowered share from detergent alcohols and lubricants which declined from 13-14% of the total LAOs demand in 1995 to 10% in 2013. The other applications have more or less maintained their share in the global LAOs demand in the past 15 years.
In the long term forecast till 2025, the demand from polyethylene is likely to reach 63% of the total LAOs demand and further increase to 65% of the total demand by 2030. On the other hand, the demand from detergent alcohols and lubricant applications will decline in the coming years to reach 8% each by 2025. The other applications are likely to maintain a similar share as witnessed in history, till the end of the forecast period.
The applications of Butene-1 include polyethylene, polybutene-1, valeraldehyde, 1, 2 butylene oxide amongst other applications. The polyethylene market is a major driver for butene-1 market and polybutylene-1 market to some extent. Polyethylene has huge demand in packaging industry and in manufacturing of pipes, while polybutylene-1 finds its demand in consumer goods and automotives interior & exterior. Asia-Pacific region accounts highest market for butene-1 whereas; North America, MEA and Western Europe are expected to witness substantial market growth. China is dominant producers and consumers of butene-1 due to availability or raw material and key manufacturers in country. Butene-1 percentage demand within the total LAOs demand has increased from 30% in 2005 to about 35% in 2017, mainly on the back of polyethylene demand. Butene-1 can be used as a comonomer both for solution and gas phase production of polyethylene. However, it should be noted that butene-1 is being substituted by hexene-1 in the recent years as hexene-1 provides a better quality end product at the same cost. Prismane Consulting s LAOs integrated market model has tracked all LAOs with their production, demand-supply, and process-technologies for all full range and on-purpose capacities.