Issue Date: January 10, 2011
Specialties: World Demand Will Grow, Fueled By Asia And South America
Specialty chemicals serving markets such as papermaking, printing, refrigeration, water treatment, and cosmetics have been among the strong performers in the global economic recovery and should continue to do well in 2011.
Global specialty chemical output jumped 7.5% in 2010 compared with 2009 and will rise 5.9% in 2011, economists at the American Chemistry Council predict. Specialty chemical production in the U.S. will be less than that of developing countries and increase only 4.0% in 2011.
Ray Will, a senior consultant at SRI Consulting, sees a bright spot for specialty chemical makers in a recent boost in consumer confidence, which tends to bring a willingness to loosen the purse strings. An uptick in auto demand in 2010 and into 2011, for example, means increased consumption of specialty automotive fluids.
Certain specialties will lag behind others, Will says. For instance, after peaking in 2000, demand for printing inks has been crimped as consumers turned to e-readers and other electronic media. One steady spot is ink for product packaging. However, Will warns that this market may also contract as product purveyors follow the trend to reduce waste by minimizing packaging.
Among specialties likely to gain ground are newly developed fluorochemicals with minimal potential to warm the atmosphere and produce smog. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved a hydrofluoroolefin that replaces earlier generations of fluorochemical refrigerants in auto air conditioners. SRI’s Will expects a market to develop for hydrofluoroolefins in a variety of uses, including insulating foams that can take advantage of the new molecules’ environmentally friendly characteristics.
Walter H. Solomon, chief growth officer at specialty chemical maker Ashland, says he sees 2011 as a year of improvement. He expects a prolonged period of low growth in North America and Europe offset by more robust demand in Asia and South America.
The market for personal care ingredients is particularly strong worldwide, Solomon says. Asia and South America will continue to lead demand for hair and skin care ingredients, including conditioning agents and cosmetic thickeners based on hydroxyethyl cellulose and guar gum. Demand is on the rise globally for water-soluble polymers used as binders and coatings for pharmaceutical tablets.
Although production of printing and writing paper is level in Europe and down in North America, it is rising in Asia, Solomon says, to the benefit of Ashland Hercules Water Technologies, which provides water treatment chemicals to the pulp and paper industry. Paperboard production for packaging is strong throughout the world, he adds.
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