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New market study from IAL Consultants – Polyurethane Chemicals and Products in EMEA, 2018
IAL Consultants has published the twelfth edition of its report “Polyurethane Chemicals and Products in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 2018”. This study updates and expands upon the information included in the previous report published in 2016 and contains both PU production and raw material consumption figures, with 2017 as the base year and market forecasts provided to 2022. The data in this eight-volume report includes raw material consumption by product type, by region, by country and by major end-use industry.
Key findings and market summary
Total production of polyurethane products is reported to have been 6.47 million t in 2017, compared to 6.16 million t in 2015 and almost 5.85 million t in 2013. By 2022, this figure is forecast to be 7.47 million t, equivalent to an average growth of 2.9 % p.a. over the next five years. According to the study, most polyurethane production still takes place in Western Europe, and the region’s total PU output exceeded 3.6 million t in 2017, with some 965,200 t produced in Germany alone. The fastest growth, however, is present outside Western Europe. The polyurethane output of Eastern Europe is expected to increase by 3.6 % annually over the forecast period, largely driven by the strong growth in Turkey and Poland, and the total East European production is forecast to increase to 2.1 million t by 2022. Middle East and Africa will also increase by 3.6 % annually, but from a much smaller base, said IAL Consultants.
Flexible foam was the largest product group, accounting for 36 % of the total EMEA polyurethane output in 2017. It was closely followed by rigid foam at 32 %, which is also expected to be the fastest growing PU market during the forecast period, increasing by 3.3 % annually. Amongst the polyurethane CASE markets, the largest product group was polyurethane coatings, accounting for 14 % of the total EMEA PU production.
The EMEA consumption of MDI and TDI was approximately 1.9 million t and 696,500 t, respectively, in 2017. This represents an annual increase of 2.8 % for MDI, and 1.9 % for TDI, since 2015. In the last couple of years, both the MDI and TDI markets have been hit by a series of planned and unplanned outages and production problems, resulting in volatile prices and product shortages. The prices have remained high for so long that some downstream consumers started looking into alternative technologies and product substitution, away from polyurethanes, to meet their end needs.
As a whole, the growth in the demand for MDI in the EMEA region has somewhat slowed down in recent years. The EMEA MDI market is largely driven by the use of PU rigid foam for thermal insulation in the construction industry, whereas TDI is primarily used in flexible foam production, with mattresses, upholstery and transport seats representing the main end-use applications. There is also demand for both products in the CASE markets, but in much smaller quantities.
End use markets
Flexible and rigid foams
Total production of flexible polyurethane foam in 2017 in the EMEA region was estimated to have been just under 2.3 million t, of which nearly 1.8 million t was slabstock and almost 510,000 t was moulded foam.
The producers of flexible foam slabstock for furniture and bedding applications have been particularly affected by TDI shortages and price increases, which has limited the market growth. Indeed, moulded foam for the automotive industry, including applications such as car seats and NVH foam, has outperformed furniture production in EMEA and has provided the main impetus for flexible foam. Passenger car production in the EMEA region reached 22 million units in 2017, an increase of 3.9 % over 2016 and also 4.2 % over 2015.
The total EMEA production of rigid polyurethane foam was almost 2.1 million t in 2017, of which the bulk is used for thermal insulation in the construction and refrigeration industries in the form of panels, boards and in-situ foam. Insulation remains one of the fastest growing areas for polyurethane in EMEA, in spite of the volatile economic climate that persists in the region.
The majority of PU/PIR insulation products are taken up by the construction sector, and building energy efficiency is still the key driver for the use of rigid foam in insulation applications. The focus of the insulation market is on fire retardancy and lower lambda values and, subsequently, conventional PU systems are gradually being replaced by polyurethanes with enhanced fire resistance properties, as fire classification grades of B2 and above are increasingly in demand. This has also led to the preference for PIR panels compared to traditional PU systems. Overall, the demand for rigid polyurethane is growing at faster rates than for other polyurethane products, including flexible foam.
Rigid-faced sandwich panels remain the largest end-use application for rigid PU foam in the EMEA region, accounting for more than 30 % of the total rigid foam production. Europe continues to lead innovation in this market segment, and the differences between Eastern and Western Europe are not as distinct as they were in the past. Polyurethane rigid foam production is still relatively limited in the Middle East and Africa. The production volume is, however, expected to grow in the upcoming years, which will mainly be due to better awareness of the need for insulation and tightening energy legislation.
Total EMEA production of polyurethane coatings was nearly 900,000 t in 2017. The PU coatings market is fairly mature in Western Europe, but considerable growth is forecast for the Eastern Europe and Middle East regions thanks to the breadth of potential applications for polyurethane-based coatings. The main utilisation areas for PU coatings traditionally include transport, construction, and wood and furniture coatings. The coatings segment remains one of the most stable of all polyurethane product categories – markets such as automotive refinish, corrosion production and construction have an enduring need for PU-based coatings. The demand for water-based PU dispersions is increasing faster than solvent-based coatings.
The total production of PU adhesives and sealants was around 418,500 t in 2017. Polyurethane adhesives are available for a diverse range of applications, with most production currently taking place in Western Europe, in particular in Germany, where most leading manufacturers are located. The demand for PU adhesives tends to follow general economic developments – however, above GDP growth is forecast for applications such as flexible packaging and construction in Europe. In addition, excellent growth opportunities exist in the Middle East and Africa, where the demand for PU adhesive and sealants is currently very limited.
Their extremely high performance enables the use of synthetic polyurethane elastomers in a range of different sectors such as automotive, construction, mining, aerospace, electronics, medical devices, sports products and fibres. Most demand comes from the automotive and footwear industries. Total EMEA production was just over 520,000 t in 2017. Even though most PU elastomers are still manufactured in Western Europe, the fastest growth rates are present in the Eastern part of the continent. In particular the production in Turkey is forecast to increase in the next five years, thanks to the ongoing investment in PU elastomer production in the country.
Binders represent a comparatively small segment of the overall PU market, with the total EMEA output at just under 240,000 t in 2017. The vast majority of this was destined for the manufacture of wood composite panels, and in particular OBS boards. The production of these panels is stagnant in Western Europe, but the market is experiencing dynamic growth in Eastern Europe.