Xylene is the name of a family of aromatic compounds that consists of three isomers of xylene & ethylbenzene. The isomers of this family are p-xylene, o-xylene, m-xylene. This compound is the second most widely used aromatic chemical product in the world. Xylene is a colorless liquid at room temperature and is relatively sweet in taste. The mixture of xylenes can be produced in several different ways, but the method that is currently most used is the use of crude oil for its production. At present, the mixture of xylenes is generally produced by the catalytic reformate process of the refinery. However, a large portion of produced xylene is added to gasoline pool as an enhancer of octane number. The huge gasoline and fuel market around the world encourages refineries to use their xylene as a general gasoline additive and an octane enhancer. Therefore, the rise in global fuel prices will reduce the willingness of refineries to sell their own xylene separately. In the figure below, you can see the various isomers of xylene.
In the xylene downstream industries, each of these isomers is used individually. The composition of the manufacturing blend may vary depending on the process used, but generally the production compound is rich in meta-xylene. Separation techniques such as distillation, crystallization & adsorption, can be used to isolate each of these isomers if necessary. In the following figure, you see the share of each country in the world from the Xylene market:
In recent years, much has been invested in the production of a mixture of xylenes, especially para-xylene. China, among others, has a significant share. One of the largest para-xylene downstream industries is polyester. There are more than 70% of the Xylene production capacity in Asia. Also, because of the ever-increasing demand for polyester fibers and resins, Asia is also the largest market for xylene. Para-xylene is the most widely used region among the xylene family of isomers. Para-xylene is widely used to manufacture petrochemical downstream products such as PTA, PET & PVC. These products are very popular and have a huge market.
Over the next five years, the production capacity of xylene blends worldwide is projected to increase by 4 to 5 percent annually. This increase will be significant in the regions of South East Asia and the Middle East. While demand for xylene in the next five years will grow by 3 to 4% annually.
In the following, you will see the main products of the aromatic value chain.
As you can see in the figure , and as previously mentioned, the mixture of xylenes with toluene and benzene is the most widely used member of the aromatic family.
Xylene is also widely used as a solvent. This Xylene solvent is also known as xylenes or xylol. In order to have better performance, they sometimes add ethylene benzene to the xylene solvent. The xylene solution form, like its isomeric forms at room temperature, is a colorless, clear, slightly sour smell. Xylene is used as a solvent in industries such as paint, leather and rubber production. In petroleum and petrochemical industries, xylene is also used as a common component of paraffinic solvents. Xylene is also used for laboratory purposes. In laboratories, xylene is used to build a dry ice bath to cool lab vesseles. In the past, Xylene has also been used as cleaning agent.