A world leader in isocyanates production is Chinese company Wanhua Chemical Group Co., Ltd. The company ranks the first in MDI production in the world, takes the lead in production of TDI in Europe, and is the third-largest player in TDI production in the world.
Other market majors are BASF SE (Germany), Bayer AG (as a subsidiary of Covestro, Germany), Huntsman Corporation LLC (USA), MCNS Inc (South Korea, a joint venture company between Mitsui Chemicals and SKC Polyurethanes), Dow Chemical Company (USA).
By 2018, the MDI production capacity in the world reached 9.789 million tons per year, China accounts for 4,64 million tons (47%).
Global TDI production capacity reached 3.355 million tons per year, of which 0.91 million tons per year (27%) is accounted for by China.
Despite the cutback in old production the global isocyanate capacities are annually growing, new enterprises are regularly launched, and the current production capacity increases. For example, such key market players as the USA and Germany are going to expand their capacity by 850 and 200 thousand tons respectively. As for Chine that is another market major, it has MDI expansion project by 100 thousand tons while TDI by 360 thousand tons.
In October 2018, Covestro, a German chemical manufacturing company, expressed its interest in investment $1.7 billion to build a new isocyanate production plant (MDI) in Baytown, Texas. It's estimated that the plant will come on-line with 500,000 tons of annual capacity by 2024. According to the representatives of the company, the market demand for MDI is about 9,7 million tons per year globally and growing at 5% annually. "You basically need a world-scale plant every year," says Craig Caputo, vice president of polyurethanes regional product management for Covestro.
The largest isocyanate-consuming region is the Asia-Pacific region. China is the largest MDI consumer.
The global MDI and TDI markets are expected to grow at an annual average rate of 5%.
However, since spring 2019, China's prices for TDI have been coming off as demand continues to languish.
Between the main reasons are the US-China trade disputes as well as environmental control measures.
More than 80% of MDI produced in the world is used in the polyurethane industry. MDI is the basic chemical substance required for the rigid polyurethane foams production.
The growth of the MDI market is ensured owing to growing end use industries of isocyanate market such as MDI insulation, packaging, automotive engineering, furniture and footwear industries. In addition, the demand for MDI will increase due to its use in adhesives, sealants, elastomers, coatings and binders.
The development of new capacities in Asia and the Middle East will trigger the growth of supply on the isocyanates market. As a result, the MDI prices have to go down.
The global MDI market is expected to grow by about 5% per year in the long-term. The expected global MDI demand growth translates into the need for approximately one additional world-scale plant per year.
However, as MDI causes skin and respiratory irritation (asthma and dermatitis) it may restrain the growth of MDI market. Another factor that holds back its growth is the increase in prices for raw materials due to the oil market dynamics.
The largest consumer of MDI is China. The MDI market in the region will be stimulated by such end-use industries as construction, electronics and automotive.
Europe is the second largest MDI market. Production of MDI-based insulation will stimulate the European market growth, while strict environmental protection rules will keep it in the region.
In order to increase products demand in North America and Europe, isocyanates market players are actively pursuing research and development activities for the further production of biocompatible products, in accordance with environmental protection rules. In terms of optimization, the intention is to continue developing alternative raw materials for the environmentally friendly MDI.
The Global demand for MDI in 2013 was nearly 6.51 million tons per year of which 1.53 million tons per year were accounted for by China. In 2014, global MDI capacity reached 7.095 million tons, with new capacity mainly being 600 kt of Wanhua Chemical and 150 kt of Bayer Shanghai. By 2018, global MDI output reached 9.789 million tons per year, of which 4.64 million tons were produced in China.