What is N-Butanol?

n-Butanol (also known as normal butanol and n-butyl alcohol) is a primary alcohol with a molecular formula of C4H10O. It has a colourless liquid of medium volatility and a characteristic banana-like odour. n-Butanol only has limited miscibility in water, however it is easily soluble in regular solvents such as ethers, alcohol, glycols and hydrocarbons. This solvent is very flammable, with a flashpoint of around 35° C.

n-Butanol chemical structure

The Production of N-Butanol

N-butanol can occur naturally as product of the fermentation of sugars and other carbohydrates.  However, the major use (and therefore production) is in the industrial arena.  It is a bulk petrochemical manufactured from the feedstock of propylene in an ‘oxo process’ in the presence of a homogeneous catalyst.  This creates butyraldehde which is subsequently hydrogenated to produce n-butanol.

How is N-Butanol stored and distributed?

A chemical wholesaler would have a bulk petrochemical storage facility to maintain the product.  Storage is normally in a cool, dry and well ventilated facility away from oxidising agents.  N-butanol should be kept out of direct sunlight, heat and open flames.  Solvents such as n-butanol should be stored in drummed containers such as isotanks made of stainless steel, aluminium or carbon steel.

A bulk solvent exporter would normally distribute this solvent in bulk vessels or tank trucks.  For transportation purposes, n-butanol is classed as a flammable liquid with a fire hazard rating of 2.  A full bulk chemical distributor would export the solvent throughout regions such as the UK, Europe, Africa and America.  This product is a packing group 3.

What is N-Butanol used for?

n-butanol can be used a chemical intermediate to create other chemicals (e.g. esters, n-butyl acetate and amino resins); alternatively it can be used as a solvent in the creation of consumer products.  n-butanol is used as a solvent for paints, coatings, varnishes, fats, oils, waxes, rubber and plasticizers.  Other uses include coating fabric in the textiles industry, as a cleaning or polishing agent, gasoline, brake fluid and in consumer products such as make-up, nail products, hygiene products and shaving products in the cosmetic industry.  The main user end market of this product is the chemical, petrochemical, textiles, cleaning and cosmetics industries.

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