Surfactants are essentially compounds that enhance cleaning efficiency, primarily by emulsifying, wetting, dispersing or modifying lubricity of water-based compositions. Surfactants are manufactured from two basic routes, namely;
1.Oleochemical (natural vegetable oils)
The global surfactants market, which was estimated to be over 15 million tons in 2011, has been undergoing a tumultuous phase with increasing raw material prices, tightening regulatory scenario and increasing calls for sustainability. The market is expected to grow at a meager rate of 2-3% in the next decade.
Industry focus has been steadily shifting to specialty surfactants, which presently account for only 25% of the global market demand estimated to be over USD 25 billion. Although anionic surfactants continue to remain the most widely used surfactant type, largely due to the use of LABS (Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate), non-ionic surfactants are expected to be the fastest growing category in the near future. Home and personal care continue to be the largest application market for surfactants, together accounting for over 65% of the total demand in 2011.
About 75% of the global detergent alcohol is derived from conversion of natural fats & oils, and the remaining 25% is produced synthetically from petroleum source. Since, 2009, Asia-Pacific has been the largest producer and consumer of surfactants, this trend is expected to continue as demand is expected to grow at over 4% for the next 5 years. With the acquisition of Cognis, BASF has emerged as the global market leader in surfactants, with Akzo-Nobel, Kao and Stephens being some key participants.
Indian surfactant consumption is just over 500,000 tons as of 2011. The Indian market is dominated by Galaxy Surfactants, with Godrej, Reliance and Clariant being some key participants.