Amines: A Ubiquitous Platform Chemical in the Chemical Sector
Amines play a crucial role in today’s chemical industry. They are either aromatic or aliphatic and are widely used intermediates across applications. Amines are wide-ranging platform chemicals and usually follows economic trends as they are used in several key consumer-oriented products. Amines are used as solvents, catalysts, chemical intermediates, feed additives, and stabilizers in numerous end use industries such as pharmaceutical, agrochemical, polymers, specialty chemicals, dyes, water treatment, personal care, and foundry chemicals.
Amines contain an extensive range of product categories including ethanolamine, ethyleneamine, alkylamine, fatty amines, and specialty amines. Ethanolamine is one of the largest consumed amine product as it finds application in pharmaceuticals, polymers, surfactants, and foundry chemicals. Methylamines and ethylamines are the most popular aliphatic amines and are widely used in pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. In the past few years, amines have emerged as a versatile platform chemical in the chemical sector.
Growing Popularity in Agrochemicals and Personal Care
In the past few years, fatty amines have grown in popularity and are expected to be the fastest-growing category owing to a surge in demand from personal care, surfactants, and water treatment chemicals. Quaternary ammonium compounds are the most prominent products amongst all fatty amines due to their versatility and performance. Amines are widely employed as surfactants, conditioning agents, foam boosters, or emulsifiers in personal care products. Skincare is one of the fastest-growing segments compared to all the beauty care products and is projected to offer lucrative growth opportunities for amines manufacturers.
The extensive use of amines as a solvent has led to significant growth in the pharmaceutical industry. Amines as solvents are either used as extraction agents or as reaction agents in the pharmaceutical industry. They are also used as catalysts in drug production. Amines are popularly used in drugs such as morphine and Demerol. Novocaine, an anesthetic drug, is also massively dependent on amines for its synthesis.
Asia Pacific Led by China to Dominate Global Amines Market
Asia Pacific has been the leading producer and consumer of amines and the trend is expected to continue. The demand in the region is mainly driven by China and India wherein, strong growth has been observed in manufacturing activities, especially in pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and polymers.
Demand for amines is stable in Western Europe and is expected to grow in line with GDP. Although, Central and Eastern Europe are anticipated to offer ample growth avenues with the rise in manufacturing activities and growing consumer spending in hygiene and beauty care products. Latin America is also expected to be a lucrative market for amine manufacturers as there is a huge demand for herbicides and fungicides, especially in Brazil and Argentina. The region has become one of the largest consumers of agrochemicals in the past few years.
Volatile Raw Material Costs and Stringent Government Regulations to Pose Threat
In the past few years, the market has observed volatility in the prices of raw materials such as methanol, ethanol, ethylene oxide, ammonia, and fatty acids. Prices of ethylene oxide and methanol are crude-driven and depend upon supply-demand dynamics in the international market. The volatility in the prices of key raw materials has hampered the profitability and is battling out maintaining margins in this sector.
Given the hazardous nature of amines production, government approvals are required for setting up a new facility or even brownfield projects. In the last few years, China has run a crackdown on polluting industries and shut down smaller units creating the supply-demand imbalance. Additionally, the personal care industry is very much legislated across the globe. The usage of many primary aromatic amines is prohibited in personal care products in the EU due to its proven or suspected toxic nature. Products offered must comply with the regulations set by the regional authorities, thus posing challenges in new product development as well.
Capacity Expansion, New Product Development to Gain Competitive Edge
The global amines market is highly competitive and is dominated by multinational companies with integrated business operations. Companies such BASF, Evonik, Nouryon, and Huntsman have a presence across the value chain from raw materials to end applications, thus offering them a competitive edge in the market. Furthermore, in few product categories such as Aliphatic amines, the market is oligopolistic and is dominated two-three companies.
In 2020, companies expanded their capacities due to a surge in demand for amines from the pharmaceutical industry. Demand for amines remained elevated as some of these products were used in COVID-19 treatment. In 2019, BASF announced capacity expansion of alkylethanolamines (AEOA) by 20% at its Verbund Site, Germany.
There has been a growing demand for high-performance products such as AEOA from water treatment and gas treatment. This expansion helped BASF to strengthen its position in the market with flexible and reliable supply for the European customer base. In 2021, Balaji Amines announced its intention to commence phase 1 (US$ 20 Mn Investment) of its greenfield project with the manufacturing of ethylamines by end of FY21. The prospects for agrochemicals look robust in India and this expansion will certainly give a strategic advantage to Balaji Amines in this segment.