Nitric acid (HNO3), which is also known as spirit of niter or aqua fortis, is a mineral acid which is corrosive in nature. It is a strong oxidizing agent with acrid and pungent odor. Nitric acid is mainly used to add nitrogen into other compounds and is naturally made by reacting rain water with nitrogen oxides present in air. It is highly toxic and hence must be handled carefully by wearing gloves, masks, and protective glasses. Nitric acid produces flammable hydrogen gas when it comes in contact with metals.
Drivers and Restraints
Rising demand for concentrated nitric acid from several end-use industries such as automotive and agrochemicals among others is fueling growth of concentrated nitric acid market. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), around 70% of nitric acid is used for the production of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), which finds wide application in fertilizers. Furthermore, rising demand for nylon 6-6, as a replacement for metals in the automotive industry is fueling growth of concentrated nitric acid market.
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However, stringent government regulations and environmental concerns are major restraining factors hindering growth of concentrated nitric acid market. According to the United States Government Publishing office (GPO), under title 49 CFR 173.158, nitric acid (more than 40% of concentration) cannot be packed with any other material and should not contain impurities such as hydrochloric (HCl) or sulfuric acid (H2SO4) acid while transported by highway or by rail.
On the basis of end-use industries, the agrochemicals sector is expected to dominate the concentrated nitric acid market over the forecast period. Rising global population has led to an increasing demand for food grains. Therefore, the demand for agrochemicals has increased significantly in order to increase the yield of farming, which in turn will increase demand for concentrated nitric acid. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the agrochemical sector in India is expected to grow at 7.5% annually with a growing domestic demand of 6.5% per annum, to reach US$ 6.3 billion by 2020.
Europe dominated the global concentrated nitric acid market in 2016. Europe has the highest consumption for concentrated nitric acid, owing to its requirement in fertilizer industries for the synthesis of ammonium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate. According to Coherent Market Insights, the annual production of nitric acid was valued at 55 million tons. Furthermore, around 96% of the nitric acid is used for the production of calcium ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, and a relatively small amount is used for the production of explosives. However, some of the European economies such as Germany and Ireland banned ammonium nitrate, mandating that it should be combined with calcium carbonate, which is restraining growth of the concentrated nitric acid market at present.
Asia pacific is the fastest growing market region for concentrated nitric acid with China being the frontrunner for this market. The demand for concentrated HNO3 is rising due to its increasing applications in fertilizers, textiles, vehicles, and explosives among others. Furthermore, the burgeoning growth of automotive industry in Asia Pacific has led to a robust demand for concentrated nitric acid. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), automobiles in India was valued at US$ 74 billion in 2015 and is estimated to reach up to US$ 260 billion to US$ 300 billion by 2026.
North America is expected to show a steady growth in concentrated nitric acid market over the forecast period. Increasing demand for Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil (ANFO), which acts as oxidizing agent and fuel absorbent in manufacturing of civil explosives is another major driver for high demand for concentrated nitric acid in the region. According to the United States Geographical Survey, in North America, mixtures of ANFO are used in around 80% of the explosives.
Several companies are focused towards adopting various organic and inorganic growth strategies such as mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships, and product or technological innovations to retain position in the concentrated nitric acid market. For instance, in January 2016, KBR Inc. acquired Plinke GmbH, Weatherly Inc, and Chematur Ecoplanning Oy to provide fertilizer complex solutions that will help in improving nitric acid plant performance and expanding their presence outside North America. Furthermore, Weatherly Inc., a subsidiary of KBR Inc. launched dual pressure nitric acid technology in September 2016, which allowed large scale production of nitric acid.
Some of the leading players operating in the global concentrated nitric acid market include Nutrien Ltd., BASF S.E., CF Industries Holdings, Inc., Bayer A.G., LSB Industries Inc., Shandong Fengyuan Chemical Stock Co.,Ltd., DowDuPont Inc., Ube Industries, and Yara International.
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