Global demand for emulsion polymers is forecast to rise 5.1% pa to 13.3 mln metric tons (dry basis) in 2016. Advances will be fueled by increased production of water-based paint, coatings, and adhesives, which are displacing solvent borne formulations in virtually all parts of the world. In the developed world, where emulsion polymers are more mature, gains will benefit from a rebound in construction spending and manufacturing activity, as well as the adoption of more stringent regulations on the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In lower income nations such as China and India, emulsion polymer demand will arise from strong economic growth and increased penetration of waterborne technology in the coatings and adhesives industries.
Though emulsion polymers are highly versatile and used throughout the industrial economy, the market will remain closely linked to a relatively narrow group of products, most prominently water-based paint, paper and paperboard coatings, and general purpose adhesives. These three outlets accounted for over three-quarters of global demand in 2011. The most rapid gains through 2016 will be for emulsion polymers in paint and coatings, where water-based formulations are steadily increasing their share of the market. Even in industrialized regions such as North America and Western Europe, where water-based paint dominates the architectural sector, ample opportunities for emulsion polymers remain in the industrial and specialty coatings markets. More moderate gains in demand are expected in the adhesives market, where emulsion polymers are facing competition from other low-VOC technologies such as hot melts. Below average advances in emulsion polymer demand are forecast for the highly mature and slow growing paper coatings market.
Acrylics will remain the largest and fastest growing emulsion polymer product type through 2016, accounting for nearly 40% of the world market. Demand for acrylics will benefit from rapid growth in the paint and coatings market, where acrylic polymers are valued for their durability and wide range of applications. Vinyl acetate emulsions will also see healthy increases in demand, with the most favorable opportunities expected for vinyl acetate-ethylene (VAE) copolymers in adhesives and coatings applications. The slowest growth among major types will be for styrene butadiene latex, restrained by sluggish advances in the paper coatings market. Driven by robust gains during the 2001- 2011 period, the Asia/Pacific region has overtaken North America and Western Europe to become the leading market for emulsion polymers. The Asia/Pacific region will continue to see above average gains in demand through 2016, fueled by strong growth in China and India, the two fastest-growing national markets for emulsions in the world. While demand in North America and Western Europe will continue to rise at a subpar pace through 2016, advances will represent a notable rebound from the declining demand of the recession-plagued 2006-2011 period. Other world regions will see healthy gains in demand through 2016, with the best opportunities expected in the Africa/ Mideast region.