Isoamyl alcohol, with the chemical formula C5H12O, has a wide range of applications across several industries. It is an extremely versatile material, that until fairly recently mostly found use in the metallurgical industry as well as in the production of synthetic fruit flavourings and fragrances. As a speciality solvent, however, new applications are being discovered all the time, increasing the demand year on year.
This chemical is classed as a ‘primary alcohol’ which is highly narcotic and four times more toxic than ethanol, which precludes it from certain uses but this quality, paradoxically, does not prevent its application within the food (spices) or pharmaceutical industries.
Essentially, the market (as of 2015) was divided between four industries; spices 38.52%, pharmaceuticals 9.84%, beneficiation 43.56%, and other 8.08%.
In general, China and the USA are the main regions of consumption for isoamyl alcohol, though production occurs worldwide via a still room. The market, until 2020, had been stable with a smooth upward trend. The CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) to 2025 was projected at 4.1%, with a worldwide market value of $120 million by 2023. By modern business standards, and when compared to other markets, this may seem a modest figure. However, markets within developing regions may drive demand well beyond these expectations.
The Covid19 pandemic has caused this to falter, as with most other industries. The interruption of supply chains worldwide, coupled with a fall in demand, severely impacted manufactures in the first quarter of 2020, Conditions vary from country to country, but where travel restrictions still apply – or have been reintroduced due to a ‘second wave’ of the virus – the industry is still facing difficult trading conditions.
Where restrictions have been relaxed, the repercussions are still being felt, as the wider impact sends ripples across multiple industries and financial markets. As well as the devastating effects of Covid19, the markets are also reacting warily to the possible ramifications of the imminent US elections, and, to a lesser degree, the Brexit talks between the UK and the EU. When combined (along with many other world events), these factors add to the nervousness in the stock exchanges on Wall Street, London, Tokyo, Honk Kong, and so on. As confidence falls, major players in the industry face huge uncertainty, including companies such as Chemoxy, BASF, Petrom, and Sanjiang Chemical.
As with so many other industries, these companies face supply chain problems on two fronts; the provision of raw materials to the site for processing, and the transport of finished products to buyers. Unless these networks become operational – even partially – then the industry faces an uncertain future. Some businesses have used their initiative and adapted their plants to produce materials more relevant to the circumstances, which is good news – provided the product can be shipped. While this works at a local level, travel and transport must be restarted at some stage to allow the industry to function fully and achieve its potential.
Although uncertainty reigns at the moment, the future for isoamyl alcohol producers looks secure.