Maleic acid is a four carbon unsaturated dicarboxylic organic acid that is synthesized by hydrolysis of Maleic anhydride. Maleic acid is a white, odorless, non-flammable, crystalline solid and is toxic in nature. It is an irritant to the skin and can cause severe damage to the eye on exposure. It is generally used in closed systems in the industry to avoid any hazards. Maleic acid is an isomer of Fumaric acid.
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Maleic acid is primarily used for the production of fumaric acid which finds application as an acidulant in foods. Maleic acid is also utilized as; detergent for surface cleaning, for making Maleate Salts of Bulk-Drugs (such as Pheneramine Maleate, Chloropheneramine Maleate and others)in the pharmaceutical industry, as sizing agent in the textile industry, photographical chemicals, preservative for oils and fats, for hot-melt adhesives and as a auxiliary dying chemical. The market is driven by demand growth of fumaric acid with increasing adoption of convenience food and beverage products due to busy lifestyle of the urban population. Further with increasing population there is great potential for synthetic foods especially to serve the fast lifestyle of urban populations across the world. Furthermore, the expanding pharmaceutical industry is expected to aid demand growth of maleic acid with rise in demand for generic bulk drugs owing to support by government subsidies. However, due to acute toxicity of Maleic acid and difficulty in use, its utility is restricted, unlike fumaric acid which is the preferred substitute, especially for application in foods. Additionally, maleic acid is interchangeable with maleic anhydride in most applications (due to its ease of use), which further eats away maleic acid market share.
Maleic acid is commercially derived by hydrolysis of maleic anhydride which is obtained from vapor phase oxidation of n-butane which is a petrochemical product. The prices of petrochemical products are highly dependent on crude oil prices, which are very volatile and often fluctuate in short intervals. This puts pressure on the margins of the maleic acid producers as a major part of the bulk purchases are made through quarterly contracts to maintain secure supplies. Currently, the prices of petrochemicals are declining owing to the shale gas revolution. The shale gas revolution has helped ease the pressure on petrochemical supply and prices. This has helped improve margins for the maleic acid manufacturers.
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In terms of geography, the rapidly expanding market in the emerging BRICS nations and the developing countries is anticipated to fuel the demand for maleic acid. The rising disposable income of the general population is improving the purchase power parity of the people in these regions, which in turn is adding to the demand for household convenience products such as convenience foods and beverages and detergents. Furthermore, rapid urbanization in these high GDP nations is instilling a change in the lifestyle of people and demand for healthy convenience products to compensate for the lack of time. Additionally with better infrastructure and technological capabilities the capabilities of pharmaceutical companies has increased greatly resulting in improved sales of bulk drugs (such as antihistamines) and more demand for maleic acid. In North America and Europe the rising awareness and health consciousness has concluded in a shift towards foods and beverages with health benefits.
Some of the key players in the maleic acid market include Alfa Aesar, Merck Millipore, Bartek, DSM NV, Huntsman Corporation, Lanxess Corporation, Mitsubishi chemical company, Mitsui Chemicals Inc., and Nippon Shokubai Company Ltd.