Environmental concerns + Demand = Eco-friendly solvents

Environmental concerns + Demand = Eco-friendly solvents

9:33 AM, 25th November 2016
The role of solvents has significantly changed the industrial processes by becoming an invaluable part of various manufacturing processes including printing ink, paints & coatings, adhesives, pharmace
The role of solvents has significantly changed the industrial processes by becoming an invaluable part of various manufacturing processes including printing ink, paints & coatings, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and many more.

Solvents form an important link in the manufacturing process. But with the rising demand for better quality solvents, there has also been a subsequent rise in the demand for eco-friendly solvents from the industry. And this is why manufacturers are stepping up to change the entire equation of solvent manufacturing.

By Debarati Das

The role of solvents has significantly changed the industrial processes by becoming an invaluable part of various manufacturing processes including printing ink, paints & coatings, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and much more.

By definition, the solvent is a liquid with the ability to dissolve, suspend or extract other materials making it possible to process, apply, clean or separate materials. However,modern manufacturing is constantly demanding for better categories of solvents best suited for various industrial applications.

Rising environmental concerns are pushing the use of bio & green solvents to reduce the impact on the environment. This demand is further being accelerated by the rising crude oil prices where consumers are trying to reduce the dependency on non-renewable resources such as crude oil, coal, and natural gas.

With various environmental laws and acts such as Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) and Clean Air Act making it increasingly important for manufacturers to adopt organic processes in manufacturing, toxicity and high volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions from conventional solvents are becoming a major concern for the industry. Hence, solvents with lesser VOCs coupled with renewable sources as their feedstock are fast being accepted in highly regulated countries like North America and Europe. Substitutes of solvents with other less harmful alternatives such as the usage of water-based and powder-based systems in the paints & coatings application are also being preferred in the global market.

“The global solvents market continues to grow, trending towards performance products with a lower environmental impact that meets stringent regulatory standards,” said Graham van’t Hoff, executive vice president, ShellChemicals.

Responding to this market demand, Shell Chemicals recently launched it next- generation, high-purity paraffinic fluids made from gas-to-liquids (GTL) products, becoming the first organisation to offer a globally-available portfolio of natural gas based fluids and solvents for the chemicals industry. This latest offering is yet another way that Shell uses gas, instead of crude oil, as a feedstock to make and supply building block petrochemicals.

Global Industry Analysis

The global industrial solvents market is a mature market, which coupled with R&D, is expected to witness steady growth in coming years. The growth of the solvent industry will come from the growing demand from pharmaceuticals and paints and coatings industry. Globally, paints and coatings are the largest application segment for the solvents industry and are further witnessing a high growth due to the outburst of construction activities in emerging markets of China, India and Brazil.

Industrial solvents, which are primarily used as a dissolution agent in various industries account for approximately 48 percent of the total industrial solvents consumed. Solvent application for cleaning and degreasing accounts for 24 percent of the market share, followed by purification and other applications.

Rapid industrialisation in Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe and in Latin America is expected to drive the global industrial solvents market. Asia-Pacific will remain the largest market for the solvent industry. Construction and automobile sector will further thrust the demand for solvents in this region. However, the growth of this market is seriously threatened by legal regulations and the growing environmental awareness of end-consumers.

On the other hand, North America and Europe, which are the mature markets for solvents, is soon expected to reach saturation. These markets will however bedriven by green initiatives and regulations.

Market Dynamics

The market has a wide range of solvents in solid, liquid or gaseous form. However, they can be broadly be classified into conventional solvents and organic solvents. Conventional solvents include glycol ethers, hydrocarbons, acetate esters, alcohols, chlorinated and ketones. Some solvents have been found to have a high amount of toxicity and can cause various health hazards. On the other hand, organic solvents are carbon-based molecular structure chemicals, which are used to dissolve material to extract one material from other and to create a solution.

These chemicals can be categorised into synthetic and natural solvents. Natural solvents are derived from living organisms and synthetic solvents need chemical reactions of other compounds in order to be created. They are further divided into hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic (non-aromatic) and carbon compounds with several functional groups such as alcohols, carbonyls, halocarbons, and ethers.

Organic solvents like aliphatic including alkenes are used for dye, oil extraction, paint, adhesives, pharmaceuticals and polymerization. Aromatics are used for industrial applications such as adhesives, paints, printing inks, extraction, insecticides and degreasing. Carbonyls including esters are used for end-user applications including decaffeination, paint diluents and activation, glue, food flavouring, and circuit board & electronics cleaners. Alcohol-based organic solvents are used in resins, dyes, lubricants and oils.

The alcohol-based organic solvent is the fastest growing product segment. Hydrocarbon and chlorinated solvents are likely to grow at sluggish rate due to its toxic effects on the atmosphere and hazardous nature. Soy oil and glycol based solvents are also expected to witness huge growth.

Recently, the Dow Chemical Company (Dow) and SAFECHEM Europe Gmb launched a new solvent, SENSENE, which is based on an inherently biodegradable modified alcohol, has a low aquatic toxicity and has proved efficient for high-quality textile cleaning. The solvent can dissolve and remove both oil and water-based contaminations.

“Initially I was sceptical about whether modified alcohols would work in textile cleaning. But the results of the extensive cleaning trials have convinced me. The new formulation could be a breakthrough for modified alcohols in textile cleaning,” said Dr Manfred Huppertz, industry expert and former head of research & development at BUFA.

Keeping up with the demand for eco-friendly solvents, DOW Industrial solutions also launched an ultra-low VOC coalescing agent, DOWANOL™ LoV 485 Glycol Ether, for architectural coatings. The new solvent also exhibits excellent coalescing properties with acrylic, styrene acrylic, and vinyl-acrylic latex binders and has a very low odour.

Organic or conventional, either way growing environmental issues and volatile nature of key raw material prices are the key challenges for the industry. This has led the industry to shift its focus towards biobased solvents which are environmentally friendly. Bio-based solvents are increasingly being used in paints and coatings to dissolve binders and colours and provide consistency.

Emergence Of Green Solvents

The demand for green or bio-based solvents is witnessing a constant rise due to the ever rising concerns over VOC emissions. Due to its low toxicity, low miscibility, higher boiling point, less odour, and easy recycling process, green or Biosolvents are finding a growing demand from various industries globally. According to Transparency Market Research (TMR) report, the global green and bio-based solvents market is expected to expand at a 7.2 percent CAGR between 2015 and 2023 and will be valued at $8.05 billion by 2023. Green and bio-based solvents are effective substitutes for the conventional solvents.

These solvents are made from corn, sugar, beetroot, and other such ingredients. The usage is expanding to various industries such as printing inks, commercial and domestic cleaning, paints and coatings, adhesives and sealants, and cosmetics. However, while the availability of low-cost petroleum-based substitutes can threaten the market’s growth, the high cost of manufacturing green and bio-based solvents is a major challenge for the  market.

According to the report, bio-based ethanol is the largest segment, while methyl soyate is expected to be the fastest growing segment in the future due to its increasing usage in paints & coatings, printing inks, and cleaning applications.

As per reports, Asia-Pacific will remain the strongest market, especially in China and India. Thailand and Malaysia are also expected to drive the demand for green & bio-based solvents in the region.  Growth will also be recorded Latin America due to the significant demand from Brazil and Argentina. The US, which is the second largest market for organic solvents, is expected to witness nominal growth due to saturated solvent market and increase in stringent environment regulations. The burgeoning construction and building industries in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also likely to have a positive influence in the Middle East & Africa organic solvents market growth.

Overall, the move from petroleum derived substitutes to eco-friendly solvents will significantly expand the market potential. Be it conventional, bio or water-based solvents, the key aim of the solvent manufacturers today is to come up with alternatives which will decrease the harmful impact on the environment.

© Chemical Today Magazine


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