Hero droplet exxal alcohols image

The biodegradability you need and the performance you want

Exxal™ alcohols are isomeric branched, primary alcohols that contain both even- and odd-numbered hydrocarbon chains, ranging from C8 to C13. In general, there are two main types of structures in industrial alcohols: Linear (or straight-chain) molecules; and Branched chain alcohols.

Our high-purity Exxal™ alcohols exhibit reactivity typical of higher primary alcohols. Thanks to their branched structure, Exxal alcohols offer many performance advantages to ethoxylates compared to linear alcohol-based ones. These advantages include:

  • Low pour point; Biodegradability*
  • Superior wetting power of derived surfactants
  • Powerful solvency in coatings and inks, fully soluble in hydrocarbon fluids while enhancing their solvency power
  • Wide viscosity range in synlubes

*All of our alcohols and their ethoxylates meet the OECD 301F readily biodegradable threshold for isomeric mixtures

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Branched alcohols fluid


Discover high-performance solutions you can rely on

Performance properties you want

In today’s industry, the wide range of production processes and applications all have a unique set of challenges. These challenges require you to choose an alcohol that is most suitable for your ethoxylation process and specific needs. The advanced performance properties of Exxal™ branched alcohols can offer benefits in your surfactant applications.
Upgrade and streamline your industrial processes
The right choice of alcohol in your formulation can potentially improve your industrial surfactant performance. Discover the benefits of Exxal branched alcohols and how they can improve processing performance. The chart below shows performance of ethoxylated Exxal 13 compared to linear alcohol ethoxylate with the same degree of ethoxylation and comparable HLB (Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance).
Key benefits of branched alcohol ethoxylates
Branched alcohol key benefits
Test methods
Property Units Method Principle
Cloud point in water °C CI-TM1 Visual
Surface tension lowering
mN/m CI-TM8 Du Noüy ring
Occurence of gel phase
at defined concentration and temperature
CI-TM5 Rheometry
Wetting time in water seconds CI-TM3 Draves test (cotton skein,
based on AATCC method)
Foam height mm CI-TM6 Dynamic foam analyser
Time to reach 40mN/m
(20°C, 0.1 g/l in ,water)
ms CI-TM7 Dynamic surface tension,
maximum bubble pressure
Note CI-TM refer to ExxonMobil method


A surfactant lowers the surface tension of water or the interfacial tension between water and organic liquids by adsorbing at the interface. Surfactant effectiveness is quantified by the lowest surface tension achievable, i.e. the surface tension at and beyond the CMC (Critical Micelle Concentration). Surface tension is measured by classical methods such as the Du Noüy ring. Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates typically provide lower minimum surface tension values, but higher CMCs than the linear equivalents.

Branched alcohol effectiveness graph

Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates are effective surfactants and can help to reach lower minimum surface tension in water solutions.

Dynamic surface tension

The rate at which equilibrium surface tension is reached is also very important for a number of high-speed industrial processes. Typically, this can be expressed by the time required to reach a defined equilibrium surface tension (here 40 mN/m) for a fixed surfactant concentration (here 0.1 g/L) in water at 20°C. Branched alcohol ethoxylates need the least amount of time to reach the desired surface tension. Dynamic surface tension is measured by maximum bubble pressure.

Branched alcohols surface tension rate

Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates need less time to reach the desired surface tension than linear based ethoxylates.


Foaming is a typical effect of surfactant solutions. It may or may not be desired, depending on the end-use. While the initial foam height is relatively similar for all branched ethoxylates, branched alcohols tend to have lower foam stability, which is generally an advantage in industrial surfactants. In the test, foam is generated by a gas flow under controlled conditions.
Branched alcohol foaming graph

Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates tend to have lower foam stability, which is generally an advantage in industrial surfactants.     

Rate of wetting

Wetting of surfaces is essential for many surfactant applications. The rate of wetting can impact the efficiency of your process, both in speed and evenness of application. It refers to the time required to wet a standard cotton skein by a 1g/L surfactant solution (Draves test). There is a significant performance advantage for Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates in industrial surfactants. Wetting time is significantly reduced from 12 to 4 seconds: 3 times lower than comparable linear alcohol ethoxylates. This results in lower processing times in applications like fast textile processing. Similarly, wetting performance leads to advantages in crop applications when active ingredients need to be quickly applied on surfaces.

The rate of wetting is measured by the Draves test.

The wetting time of ethoxylates based on Exxal branched alcohols is significantly lower than comparable linear alcohol based ethoxylates.

Gel phase formation

Gel phases make product handling more difficult and are generally avoided in industrial applications. Exxal branched alcohol ethoxylates tend to form fewer gel phases in water solutions than linear alcohols of comparable molecular weight. Due to this, solutions using Exxal based ethoxylates remain fluid, providing an important performance advantage for formulators or end users by improving product handling ability.
Branched alcohol gel phase formation

Ethoxylates based on Exxal branched alcohols tend to form fewer gel phases than linear ethoxylates.

What are the advantages for your specific applications?

Whether your business is focused on textile, agricultural, personal care or detergents, you need surfactants that meet the specific needs of your customers and their end users. Exxal branched alcohols can provide a benefit to address those needs in many different surfactant applications.

Select your industry to get an overview of the benefits Exxal branched alcohols can have for your formulations.
Biodegradable lubricants

Need biodegradable surfactants?

Get the best of both worlds

The surfactant industry faces the challenge of delivering a biodegradable product that meets performance requirements. Many in the industry hold the misconception that there is a trade-off between biodegradability and performance. With our line of Exxal™ branched alcohols we have an effective solution that challenges this misconception. A solution that helps your customer meet their performance and environmental needs.

Are branched alcohol ethoxylates biodegradable? In short: yes!

Despite all the advantages of ethoxylates based on Exxal branched alcohols, such as superior rate of wetting and less gel phases, some manufacturers are reluctant to use branched alcohols due to the perception that branched alcohol ethoxylates do not biodegrade. ExxonMobil has used objective criteria and recognized test methods to show that Exxal branched alcohols and their ethoxylates do readily biodegrade.

One of the EPA and EU approved test methods is the OECD 301F manometric respirometry test that assesses “ultimate” biodegradation, which is the breakdown of the substance by microorganisms, resulting in the production of carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts, and new biomass. The criterion to “pass” as readily biodegradable in the 301F test is to reach 60% degradation in 28 days (for monoconstituent substances this would need to be achieved within a “10-day window”).
Branched alcohol ethoxylates biodegradable graph
Exxal alcohols and their ethoxylates are readily biodegradable

All of our alcohols and their ethoxylates meet the OECD readily biodegradable threshold for isomeric mixtures, and most of our alcohol ethoxylates also meet the “10-day window”. According to OECD guidance, the 10-day window should not be applied to isomeric mixtures of similar types of chemicals (e.g. surfactants made from Exxal branched alcohols). However, this requirement may be desired for certification with established eco-labelling programs.

Today, ExxonMobil offers six biodegradable Exxal branched alcohols that can be used to make a wide range of regulatory compliant biodegradable non-ionic surfactants (ethoxylates). Exxal branched alcohols can help fulfill the demand for a biodegradable surfactant that meets regulatory and voluntary standards – without compromising on the quality of your formulation.

ExxonMobil has a diverse alcohol grade slate that meets the standards
Branched alcohol grade slate
Branched alcohols scientist pouring blue liquid

Local expertise on a global scale

As your global partner, we are where you are

You can count on ExxonMobil as a reliable and dedicated supplier. With over 50 years of experience in supplying the surfactant industry, we have built in-depth knowledge and technical expertise. Our team of technical experts is available around the world to provide technical support and product data to help you meet your specific production requirements and performance demands. We can provide guidance regarding our line of Exxal™ branched alcohols and properties of key derivatives including ethoxylates.
branched alcohols global partners
Expect a supplier who works with you

ExxonMobil is a supplier of raw materials to the surfactant industry. Because we are not integrated in the production of surfactants; we are working for and with you. This is what you can expect from working with ExxonMobil: a commitment to quality, innovation and the highest standards.

Tap into our expert environmental resources

Staying up to date with the latest environmental requirements is a key requirement in the surfactant industry. The scientific experts at ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences Inc. (EMBSI) support ExxonMobil’s research efforts for health and environmental science, including biodegradability and aquatic toxicity. The EMBSI environmental laboratory is tailored to evaluate petrochemicals in biological systems and perform various environmental toxicity tests. EMBSI is at the forefront of developing test methods for low solubility substances, such as the dietary bioaccumulation test adopted by OECD.

Our Product Stewardship & Regulatory Affairs (PS&RA) team can also provide product safety expertise and advice on regulations that may impact the markets relevant to our products.

Explore the product excellence of Exxal branched alcohols

Exxal alcohols are isomeric branched, primary alcohols that contain both even- and odd-numbered hydrocarbon chains, ranging from C8 to C13. In general, there are two main types of structures in industrial alcohols:
  • Linear (or straight-chain) molecules: obtained from synthetic or natural sources;
  • Branched chain alcohols: produced from propylene and butene.
branched alcohols hydrocarbon chain
Our Exxal branched alcohols contain isomers with different branching structures. As with linear chains, Exxal alcohol purity exceeds 99%.

High-purity Exxal alcohols exhibit reactivity typical of higher primary alcohols. Thanks to their branched structure, Exxal alcohols are characterized by low pour points.

The pour point is the temperature below which the product does not flow. A low pour point facilitates transportation, storage and handling of products at low temperatures. While linear C12-C14 alcohol has a pour point around room temperature (20°C), branched alcohols such as Exxal 13 (an iso-tridecyl alcohol) have a pour point lower than -40 degrees. For operations in colder climates, using Exxal branched alcohols versus linear alcohols can reduce the need for heated tanks and lines. This could translate into lower energy bills and reduced handling costs, potentially leading to significant cost savings.
branched alcohols pour point

Exxal branched alcohols have a low pour point, which can facilitate the processing of alcohols and their derivatives at low temperatures.

Discover the most common uses of Exxal branched alcohols

Exxal branched alcohols serve as intermediates for a variety of derivatives used in different applications.

Alcohol derivative Applications
Surfactants: ethoxylates, propoxylates and their derivatives including ethersulfates Industrial surfactants (e.g. textiles, ag-chem. polymerization, coatings), Industrial & Institutional cleaning, detergents, personal care
Esters Automotive lubricants
Industrial lubricants
Cosmetic emollients
Acrylates Adhesives, coatings
Zinc Dialkyl DithioPhosphates Lubricant additives
Hindered phenols Lubricant additives
Organic phosphites Polymer stabilizers (PVC)
Organic phosphates Flame resistant plasticizers
Mineral extraction
Thioglycolates Tin stabilizers for PVC
Polymethacrylates Viscosity index improvers for lubricants

Exxal branched alcohols can also be used in an unreacted form as solvents/co-solvents (for example in printing inks, coatings, metal extraction in mining) in order to enhance the solvency power.

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