Pranathi Rao and Vashita Nath
What are Surplus Chemicals?
● Chemicals that companies no longer want to retain in their inventory but still have strong
potential for reuse.
● The primary sources of surplus chemicals include by-products of chemical processes, B grade
chemicals produced due to inefficiencies in the production stage, recycled solvents from
processes and excess capacity due to destockage, reformulation, change in market, technology
change, plant closure etc.
● Typical reason for chemical surplus is age, as companies are interested in clearing their inventory
to avoid disposal costs, but the chemicals still have significant remaining shelf life
Sources of Surplus Chemicals
1. By-products of Chemical Processes
○ Examples: Glycerin from the manufacture of Soap
2. Chemicals that did not meet Quality Specifications (B-Grade Chemicals)
○ Examples: B grade coal being sourced from Korean factories
3. Chemicals produced as a result of Excess Capacity in factories
○ Examples: Overproduction of Toluene in China which exceeds the local demand (and export is
hindered by China’s export taxes)
4. Waste Solvents that can be Recycled
○ Examples: Methanol, Ethanol, Methyl Ethyl Ketone and other solvents which can be recycled in
industrial units after being used.
Most common surplus chemicals available*
1. PEG 200 and PEG 400 (by-product): Due to its low toxicity, PEG is commonly used in the
pharmaceutical industry as solvents, plasticizers, surfactant and tablet and capsule lubricants
etc. The different PEG forms differ based on their molecular weight.
2. N-heptane (recycled solvent) : N-heptane is used in high volumes as a non-polar solvent in
laboratories for extraction of chemicals. It is also used as a cold-cleaning solvent in
electroplating and is widely used in the printing industry as a solvent for flexography and
3. N-hexane (by-product) : A by-product of crude oil refining, n-hexane is used for manufacture of
roofing, leather products and glues and for the mass extraction of soybean oil. It is also used as
a non-polar solvent in laboratories and as a degreaser in the textiles industry.
4. Glycerin (by-product): Glycerin, or glycerol, is a by-product of soap manufacture. It finds it use
in various industries including pharmaceutical, personal care and food industries as a
humectant, solvent and lubricant.
*chemicals have not been listed in any particular order
Relevance of Surplus Chemical Trade in S.E.A
● SE Asia is a rapidly growing player in the Global Chemical Market, with which the
problem of surplus chemicals also grows
● An example of this is prominent in the overcapacity problems common in multiple
industries in China
● Benefits to disposing company: Avoid costs and liabilities of excess chemical disposal
● Benefits to buying company: Lower costs as compared to freshly prepared chemicals
being directly sourced from manufacturers.
● Societal Benefits: Encourages recycling and environmental protection; Connects buyers
and sellers, allowing for chemicals to be used to full potential.
Liquid Chemical Demand/Supply in Major
Sodium Sulfate Anhydrous
● Source: Mining, by-product of viscose rayon and methionine manufacture
● Top Exporter: China (~98%)
● Applications: Textile, Detergent, Glass, Paper Industry
Spent Sulfuric Acid
● Source: Excess capacity produced during Contact Process, WSA and metabisulphite
● Top Exporter: India
● Applications: Agriculture, paint, detergent, waste water treament
● Surplus chemicals are more economical than buying high-grade chemicals -> benefits
exporters, importers and environment
● Market for surplus chemicals in Asia is rapidly growing due to high potential for reuse by
the many chemical manufacturers.
● Priority chemicals were chosen based on their availability, ease of manufacture,
reusability and geographical considerations.
● Target industries for the surplus chemicals will be chosen based on their key applications.
Actions to be taken:
● Identify main suppliers/points of contact for priority chemicals.
● Generate Technical Data Sheets (TDS) and MSDS with relevant information (if required)
for identified surplus chemicals.
● Use Social Media to highlight the goals and mission of Surplus Chemical Trade and
encourage recycling of chemicals.
● Develop content and set-up website for buying and selling surplus chemicals.
● Set-up LinkedIn group to connect with surplus chemicals manufacturers so as to function
as a hub for buying and re-sale of surplus chemicals.