Nitric acid, also known as spirit of niter or aqua fortis, is a corrosive mineral acid. Nitric acid in pure form is colorless and becomes pale yellow due to decomposition of oxides. Commercially sold nitric acid has concentration of around 70%. Nitric acid with more than 85% concentration is known as fuming nitric acid. Depending upon the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid is further classified as red fuming and white fuming depending upon the color of the solution. Nitric acid is used as a reagent in nitration reactions. Few of the nitric acid based compounds are unstable and are generally sued in explosives while the stable compounds are used in manufacturing of paints, dyes and pigments. Commercially, nitric acid is manufactured through Ostwald’s process in which there is catalytic oxidation of anhydrous ammonia. The process gives nitric oxide which is again treated with water and then reoxidized to get nitric acid. The aqueous solutions will have concentration of around 65% while further concentration of more than 95% is achieved through dehydration with 98% sulfuric acid.
The market for nitric acid was mainly driven by fertilizer industry. Nitric acid is used in manufacturing of ammonium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate which finds application in fertilizers. Ammonium nitrate is also used in manufacturing of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) which is used as fertilizer solution and in explosives. Ammonium nitrate is also used as blasting and explosives agent in various applications. Calcium ammonium nitrate is used in manufacturing of fertilizers solutions. Adipic acid is one of the applications which use nitric acid during manufacturing process. Adipic acid is used in manufacturing of nylon 6,6. Nylon 6,6 is used in various end-user industries such as automotive, textiles and tire among others. Nitric acid is also used as an intermediate in manufacturing of toluene diisocyanate (TDI). Toluene diisocyanate is used in manufacturing of polyurethane foams which are used in automotive, transpiration, carpet and furniture industry. Nitric acid is used as an intermediate in manufacturing of nitrobenzene and nitrochlorobenzenes among others. Nitric acid is also used as oxidizer in rocket propellants. However, the market is likely to hinder in near future owing to environmental and health hazards associated with the nitric acid industry.
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In terms of demand, Europe was the leading region in nitric acid market in 2013. The demand in the Europe is mainly driven by fertilizer and explosives industry. Western and Eastern Europe had the highest demand for nitric acid in this region. However, central Europe is likely to offer better opportunity for the market in near future. Europe was followed by Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is considered to be one of the fastest growing regions for the nitric acid market. China had the highest demand for nitric acid in this region. India, Japan and Taiwan are expected to positive outlook for the nitric acid market in upcoming years. North America had the third-largest demand for nitric acid market in 2013. Increasing demand for nitric acid from fertilizer industry coupled other end-user such as explosives, TDI and adipic acid has been driving the market for nitric acid. U.S. had the highest demand for nitric acid in North America. Rest of the World market is anticipated to demonstrate optimistic future for the nitric acid market. Latin America and the Middle East will exhibit higher demand for nitric acid over the forecast period.
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Some of the key manufacturers in the nitric acid market are Agrium Inc., BASF SE, Bayer AG, LyondellBasell Industries and The Dow Chemical Company among others.