Issue Date: July 4, 2011
Output Ramps Up In All Regions
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The global economic recovery lifted all boats in the chemical industry in 2010, as it did for manufacturing industries as a whole. Chemical production was up for almost all categories of chemicals in the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. Statistics for European chemical production lag by a year, so 2010 data are unavailable, but output in 2009 mirrored the sharp decreases experienced in the U.S. that year.
Although businesses and consumers in the developed economies of the U.S. and Europe mostly stayed on the sidelines during the recovery, developing economies such as China and Brazil began to ramp up manufacturing as early as midyear 2009. Those regions continued to boost demand for chemicals in 2010.
Proximity to China may explain why production indexes showed that growth in chemicals was stronger in Asia than in the U.S. and Canada. Japan upped its output of all chemicals by 9.0% in 2010 compared with 2009. In South Korea the increase was 6.8%, and in Taiwan it was 9.0%. For the latter two countries, 2010 marked a record year for chemical production. In Japan, by contrast, chemical output would need to increase again by more than 9% to reach the record set in 2007.
In the U.S., overall chemical output nudged up 3.5%. It would need to tack on another 15.5% of improvements in production to reach 2007 levels, and that will likely take many years. The story in Canada was similar. Although a years-long decline in chemical output was reversed in 2010, it is about 15% below the high-watermark year of 2004. Still, Canadian plants’ output grew 4.3% from the prior year.
U.S. output shot up for aniline, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and cumene, all of which grew at double-digit rates. For inorganics, all but ammonium nitrate, hydrochloric and phosphoric acid grew more than 10% compared with 2009. Among plastics, production of PVC and copolymers grew at just under 10%. And even nylon, olefin, and polyester fibers turned around a decadelong slide.
In Asia, production of acrylonitrile, benzene, and purified terephthalic acid increased almost 10%. In Japan, production of hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen soared 23.4% and 16.5%, respectively. But Japan has slid to third place in the production of the building block chemical ethylene, after South Korea and China.
For its part, China expanded its output of methanol, which it produces from abundant coal reserves, by 38.9%. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all boosted manufacturing of plastics, especially polypropylene in Japan, polystyrene in South Korea, and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene in Taiwan.
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