What are chlorinated alkanes?

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Chlorinated alkanes (or chlorinated paraffins) are highly versatile chemicals that give essential, often life-saving properties to those products that contain them.

They are produced by the chlorination of n-paraffin or paraffin wax, which also forms high-grade hydrochloric acid that has it own uses in turn. After removing residual acid, a stabiliser is added to produce the finished mixture.

Commercial chlorinated alkanes contain 30-70% chlorine, are largely inert, practically insoluble in water and hardly evaporate. Most commercial products are liquid with a range of viscosities, depending on the degree of chlorination (more chlorine equals greater viscosity/ density). There are also solid types that have longer carbon chain lengths, containing 70-72% chlorine. Chlorinated alkanes are capable of mixing with many organic solvents such as various hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, ketones and esters. This diversity makes chlorinated alkanes highly versatile in their number of applications.

Chlorinated alkanes are generally grouped into a number of distinct 'families', depending on their carbon chain-length:

  • short-chain: based on C10-13 paraffins (no longer produced in Europe); SCCP
  • medium-chain: based on C14-17 paraffin; MCCP
  • long-chain: based on C18-20 (liquids), C>20 (liquids) and C20 wax grades (average carbon chain length approximately C25); LCCP

Liquid chlorinated alkanes are produced from each of these feedstock types, whilst the solid versions (with 70-72% chlorine content) are made from wax feedstocks.

The difference in the size of the molecule is important when considering their application. There are also regulatory aspects as well, with different chain lengths and chlorination patterns leading to fundamental differences in their properties.

The total EU production of medium and long chain chlorinated alkanes is approximately 45,000 tonnes per year.  

Major producers

The interests of European chloro alkane producers are represented by the Chlorinated Alkane Product Group (CAPG, part of Euro Chlor) which works to promote best practice, support the long-term sustainability of the chlorinated alkane industry, and to demonstrate just how essential these substances are to society.

Major global producers include INOVYN, Caffaro, Química del Cinca, Leuna Tenside and Novácke Chemické Závody in the EU; Dover Chemicals in North America; NCP Exports in South Africa and Orica in Australia. There are numerous other producers in Asia, principally in India, China, Taiwan (Handy) and Japan (Tosoh).

The following companies are Members of the chlorinated alkanes SG: