Jubilant Life Sciences says it will build the world’s largest plant to manufacture a key intermediate for chlorpyrifos, the world’s largest-volume insecticide. The Indian company says the facility will use an environmentally friendly route to the intermediate it developed in its own R&D labs.
First marketed in 1965 by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide widely used to protect crops such as cotton, corn, and almonds. Although chlorpyrifos has come under fire in the U.S., demand is growing in Asia and especially in China, where it is replacing more toxic organophosphates, according to Rob Bryant, head of the U.K. crop protection technology firm Agranova.
Chlorpyrifos lost patent protection years ago, but Dow is still the world’s top maker of the intermediate, 2,3,5,6-tetrachloropyridine, also known as Symtet. Bryant says Dow has maintained leadership through an innovative process that consumes low-cost by-products from other industries such as nylon manufacturing.
To date, the only other commercial route to chlorpyrifos is a process based on trichloroacetyl chloride that was developed by the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT). It is used with limited success in China, Bryant says.
Jubilant says its Symtet plant will benefit from back-integration into pyridine production as well as the new process. The 24,000-metric-ton-per-year facility will be able to supply more than 40% of world demand for the intermediate when it opens in Bharuch, Gujarat state, India, in late 2012, the company says.
Jubilant will be competitive against the IICT route, Bryant predicts, but he thinks Dow will continue to dominate the Symtet business. “I am skeptical that Jubilant can compete with Dow on a direct-cost basis,” he says.