Statistics in brief - Solvents

Breakdown of the total quantity between different types of solvents, 2009*

Graph. Breakdown of the total quantity between different types of solvents, all products, 2009.Graph. Breakdown of the total quantity between different types of solvents, consumer available products, 2009.

* Fuels and synthesis raw material are not included.
Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency. 

The turnover of solvents in Sweden 2010 was a little less than 350,000 tonnes. This is an increase since the last Statistics in Brief in 2004 and turnover is on the same level as in the 90s. About 100,000 tonnes of this quantity was exported during 2010. The main breakdown between different kinds of solvents is shown in the chart.

Approximately one third of the solvents consists of various alcohols, another third or so of various petroleum solvents. Petroleum solvents are described in the chart as aromatics, aliphatics or hydrocarbon mixtures. Hydrocarbon mixtures contain both aliphatics and aromatics and are often called White Spirits.

The turnover of chlorinated solvents is less than 0.1 per cent of the total solvent turnover.

When it comes to the solvents used in consumer products the distribution is different. 60 per cent are different alcohols whereas also among consumer products the petroleum solvents constitute about 30 per cent, one third of the quantity. Use of the other types of solvents like esters and ethers is notably small in consumer products, only seven per cent of the quantity to be compared with 34 per cent of the solvents in products mainly sold for professional use.

Breakdown between different types of organic solvent, 1996-2010

Graph. Breakdown between different types of organic solvent, 1996-2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency. 

Total use in solvents has been fairly constant over the years. The 2009 use shows a decrease that can not be explained only by the bad economic situation but is also a result of the companies´ failure to report . The total quantity of petroleum solvents/solvent naphthas (reddish colours in the chart) decreased up to2007, then increased to 2010 when it was used in larger quantities than in the mid 90s. Looking over the whole time period shows that the quantity of hydrocarbon mixtures has decreased considerably while the use of aliphatics has increased correspondingly.

The proportion of petroleum solvents is roughly one-third of all solvents.

Alcohols, esters, ethers and ketones are substance groups which are also very widely used as solvents.

The use of chlorinated substances as solvents is very small, about 0.2 per cent of the turnover.

Water, the most commonly used solvent, was traded in about 2,500,000 tonnes in chemical products during 2010.

Chlorinated solvents, turnover in Sweden 1993–2012

Graph. Some chlorinated solvents, turnover in 1993–2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency. 

Chlorinated solvents are harmful to health and their use in Sweden is regulated.

1,1,1-trichloroethane destroys the ozone layer and its use is prohibited. All use of 1,1,1-trichloroethane in chemical products has now ceased.

Trichloroethene (trichloroethylene) and dichloromethane (methylene chloride) are also prohibited but may be used after a permit has been granted by the Swedish Chemicals Agency. They have been widely used for degreasing and cleaning. This use has been substantially reduced by e.g. altered demands for cleaning, alkaline degreasing, other solvents or by change of production technology.

Tetrachloroethene (perchloroethylene), like the others, is prohibited in consumer products but may be used professionally. This substance is mainly used for dry cleaning. 

Use of solvents in different types of consumer products 2010

Graph. Use of solvents in different types of consumer products 2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency 2010. 

Large quantities of substances used as solvents are also used as fuels and heating oils. Such uses of the substances are not included in the chart above.

In 2010 about 50,000 tonnes of solvents were contained in consumer available products. The amount of solvent used in consumer products is rather constant. On the other hand the number of products containing solvents increases all the time. In 2010 half of the consumer products contained some kind of solvent. Also water-based products often include some organic solvent  e.g. alcohol, to enhance the dissolving capacity.

The solvents used in windscreen cleaners, deicing, cooling agents and other cleaners are alcohols. In paints all kinds of solvents are used. Degreasers that are designed to dissolve a large proportion of oil, are often based on solvent naphthas.

Special petroleum fractions are used as barbecue starter fluids. In rust prevention agents mostly petroleum solvents are used. Other car care products can be intended for widely separate purposes and thus contain solvents of all kinds. 

Manufacturing industry sectors that uses much solvent, tonnes purchased 2010
Industrial sectorTonnes
Graphic industry 85,988
Paint manufacturers 62,367
Manufacture of organic base chemicals 13,421
Plastic and plastic goods industry 12,972
Manufacture of chemicals not mentioned separately 12,616
Manufacture of metal goods 11,978
Manufacture of wood goods (not furniture) 9,874
Construction 8,749
Food industry 4,997
Pulp and paper industry 4,825

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency 2010.