The global petrochemicals market is highly fragmented and the top three companies accounted for approximately 20% of the total petrochemical market in 2013, as per Transparency Market Research. These companies are BASF, Sinopec, and ExxonMobil. While the primary focus of BASF is to expand its business in the Asia Pacific region, Sinopec has adopted the vertical integration strategy and explores new oil reserves for business expansion. Key players are acquiring small, regional companies to increase their market shares. Many players are shifting their manufacturing base to low-cost countries in the Middle East and Asia. For new players, procurement of raw materials at a reasonable price is likely be a problem. In addition to this, stringent environmental regulations pose a challenge for new players. Thus, the threat of new entrants will continue to remain low in the coming years.
According to the TMR report, the global petrochemicals market is expected to rise from US$635.93 bln in 2015 and reach US$885.07 bln by 2020. By product, the ethylene segment not only led in 2015 but is also expected to do so through 2020.
The ethylene segment will account for 26.5% of the petrochemicals market by 2020. On the basis of geography, China is expected to hold a dominant share of the market. China is expected to account for 29.1% of the market by 2020 owing to a growth of the construction, plastic, and automobile industries. China is expected to be followed by the Rest of Asia in terms of growth.
The growth of the primary markets for petrochemicals such as chemicals, textiles, automotive, packaging, and construction, especially in Asia Pacific, is expected to drive the market. The rise in both income levels and population in emerging countries such as India and China is behind the growth of the market in Asia Pacific. Petrochemicals are also widely used in plastics used in the automotive industries, thus driving their demand. In addition to this, the growing support from governments across the Asia Pacific region is also driving the petrochemicals market. Moreover, new refineries are being set up in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, having large production capacities. Around 70% of the oil consumed by Asia Pacific comes from the Middle East owing to the cheap pric.
One of the key concerns related to petrochemicals is the environmental hazards caused by them. In an attempt to reduce dependence on petrochemicals, players in the petrochemicals industries are shifting their focus to developing bio-based chemicals. These products will compete with petroleum-based products in terms of cost and performance, thus posing a challenge to the market.
Price volatility is another factor restraining the growth of the market. Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) has drafted strict guidelines pertaining to the production of petrochemicals and hence several substances have to undergo an in-depth risk assessment. All these factors will restrain the growth of the global petrochemicals market. However, the rising demand for shale gas due to environmental concerns, urbanization and abundant coal reserves are driving the usage of coal and shale gas as a feedstock in petrochemicals. Development of shale gas is providing a substitute for conventional feedstock required for the manufacture of various petrochemicals, and is emerging as an opportunity in the market.