Catalysts are important materials of commerce, even if most people do not realize how catalysts touch them every day. Most of us drive cars fueled with high-octane unleaded, often oxygenated or reformulated, gasoline, which is blended with components produced in catalytic oil refinery processes. Although the current major motor fuel oxygenate, ethanol, is primarily produced in the United States via fermentation from corn, this is an exception to the basic rule that most major chemical products are made via catalytic processes. Bioprocessing of industrial chemicals from biomass sources is a growing and important technology, but at present is more at the research and development stage than at the stage of commercial method of making large-scale industrial compounds for sale, as per BCC Research.
Catalysts for chemical, petrochemical, and petroleum refining processes constitute a significant business in the United States. BCC estimates total merchant sales of these products in the U.S. in 2010 at about US$4.1 bln. The total U.S. market value is forecast to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 2.5% to reach more than US$4.6 bln by 2015.
For all types of chemical catalysts, BCC estimates a total 2010 market of almost US$2.7 bln, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 2.5% to more than US$3 bln in 2015. Polymerization is the largest chemical catalyst segment with a market of about US$1.3 bln and a slightly higher CAGR. Petroleum refining catalysts are a smaller market at US$1.4 bln in sales in 2010, but also are predicted to grow at about a 2.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to more than US$1.6 bln in 2015. Growth will be spurred by increasing demand for reformulated and other less-polluting gasolines, plus new regulations calling for drastic reductions in sulfur content in gasoline and diesel fuel.