Nitric Acid is a strong mineral acid and manufactured commercially by the catalytic combustion of ammonia. Ammonium Nitrate (AN) manufacturing is the largest application of nitric acid and accounts for over three quarters of global nitric acid consumption. There is very limited merchant portion of nitric acid market and is mostly consumed captively. International trade is limited for nitric acid due to the corrosive nature of the product. The other applications of nitric acid include the manufacturing of chemicals such as cyclohexanone, nitrobenzene, adipic acid and metal nitrates. Nitric acid is also used in the manufacturing of explosives and blasting agents and as metal treatment solvents.
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Nitric acid demand has seen a significant rise in recent times, due to the increasing demand for ammonium nitrate as a fertilizer in the agricultural industry. Over 80% of ammonium nitrate is used as fertilizers and the growing demand for fertilizers with nitrogen as active ingredient is expected to boost the demand for nitric acid. The other use nitric acid includes industrial applications and production of other chemical compounds.
However, environmental regulation against the use of ammonium nitrate fertilizers is expected to severely impact the demand for nitric acid over the forecast period. The use of ammonium nitrate fertilizers results in loss of nitrogen to underground waster due to leaching and nitrification. This has led to directive by the EPA and European Community limiting the level of nitrogen ground water to less than 50 milligrams per liter. This is expected to act as a major restraint for the demand of nitric acid particularly in North America and Europe.
Europe and China were the largest consumers of nitric acid in 2012 and accounted for over one third of global consumption. The large agricultural and industrial market in Asia is expected to be a key factor responsible for the high growth. In addition, the strict regulations in Europe and North America on the use of AN based fertilizers is expected to shift the demand to countries of Asia Pacific. China witnessed the fastest growth in rate of production and consumption among all regions over the past five years.
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