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 production of LAOs can be divided into either full-range LAOs or on-purpose LAOs like butene-1, hexene-1, and 1-octene. Each of the end-use of application markets has different characteristics and follows different trends in terms of growth, per capita consumption, regional/ country coverage, customer base, quality requirements, selling channels, and off-take volumes.
In the case of HLAOs, the percentage in the overall LAOs demand has decreased mainly because of the higher demand for butene-1, hexene-1, and octene-1 from polyethylene applications. The HLAOs find applications in the production of lubricants and detergent alcohols but are not used as co-monomers of polyethylene.
In the forecasted years, it is estimated that the share of HLAOs will reduce further while that of hexene-1 is expected to rise till the end of the forecast period till 2030. The HLAO operating rates are again mostly dependent on the demand for polyethylene comonomers (Butene-1, Hexene-1, and Octene-1 are used as feedstock to produce polyethylene comonomers).
The LAOs fractions like Butene-1, Hexene-1, andOctene-1 are produced and these decide the operating rates of the full range LAO plants. In short, the operating rates of the plant are used to optimize the production of Butene-1, Hexene-1, and Octene-1 and this decides the operating rate for all HLAOs (C10+onwards) as well.
The operating rates of the full range plants decide the operating rate of the HLAOs as well. Depending on the technology HLAOs are produced in each of the full range LAO plants. The major fraction of 1-hexene plants also produces a very small amount of higher LAOs, especially C20+.
In terms of higher LAO production by type at the global level, C10+accounts for around 25%, while C12-C14 accounts for more than 30%, C16-C18 accounts for 22%, and C20+ account for 21%.
The supply of linear alpha olefins is dominated by four major producers, Chevron Phillips, INEOS, Shell, and Sasol. These companies have a major presence in North America, Western Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. None of the higher LAOs are used in the production of polyethylene. HLAOs are mainly used for applications like lubricants, detergents, oil field chemicals, and others.