The global petrochemicals market was valued at US$558.61 bln in 2013 and is anticipated to reach US$885.07 bln by 2020, expanding at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2014 to 2020, as per Transparency Market Research. Petrochemicals are widely used in various end-use industries such as construction, automobile and packaging. Hence, growth in these end-use industries is one of the major factors driving the global petrochemicals market. Availability of raw materials in the Middle East - the region is one of the largest producers and exporters of crude oil and natural gas in the world - is another factor boosting the petrochemicals market. Government initiatives in India and China for establishing petrochemical complexes are also expected to drive the market for petrochemicals. However, shift towards bio-based chemicals coupled with environmental issues arising due to usage of various petrochemicals is projected to hamper market growth during the forecast period.
Ethylene was the leading petrochemical product, accounting for over 25% of the global petrochemicals market in 2013. Ethylene was followed by propylene, which is primarily used in the manufacture of polypropylene and propylene oxide. Methanol is projected to be the fastest growing segment from 2014 to 2020. Growth of methanol is directly related to its increasing usage in gasoline blending and methanol to olefins (MTO) processes.
Other petrochemicals such as butadiene, benzene, xylene, toluene, vinyls and styrene accounted for a significant portion of the global petrochemicals market share in 2013.
China was the leading consumer of petrochemicals, accounting for over 25% of the global market share in 2013. Initiatives taken by the government of China to boost the petrochemicals market coupled with growth in end-use industries in the region is likely to drive the market during the forecast period. Rapid development of shale gas as an alternative feedstock for petrochemicals is reshaping the chemicals industry in North America. Europe emerged as the third-largest petrochemicals market in 2013. The petrochemicals market in the region is estimated to grow at a sluggish rate during the forecast period. High demand for petrochemicals in the Middle East & Africa is primarily ascribed to rapid capacity additions in the region. The global market for petrochemicals is highly fragmented in nature. It is dominated by top multinational corporations that operate across the value chain.
As per Prema Vishwanathan of Platts, China’s imports of key petrochemical products such as polymers are increasing at a much slower pace than its GDP growth rate of 7.4%. China’s imports of polypropylene (PP) were a mere 4.8 mln metric tons (mt) in 2014, almost unchanged from 2013. Imports of polyethylene (PE) grew at just above 3% in the same period to 9.1 mln mt. This trend is indeed a cause for worry for polymer exporters to China. However, it would be premature to write off China’s attraction as a key market for chemicals. With the maturing of the Chinese economy, there is an increasing need for high-end specialty chemicals which go into key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, coatings, infrastructure, information technology, automobiles and a variety of white goods.
In addition to this, there is a growing demand among the Chinese consumers for more environmentally friendly products, as awareness of safety and ecological hazards gains momentum. The government aims to use protection and innovation as a lever to provide better quality products and to permanently shut down inefficient plants and combat overcapacity in petrochemicals as part of the 13th Five Year Plan agenda, according to a Sinopec source. The biggest challenge on the environmental front, of course, is the coal to petrochemicals capacity coming up in China. Despite its concern over sustainability, the Chinese government is likely to push ahead with its coal-to-olefins projects in order to ensure feedstock security and competitiveness, as China has one of the largest reserves of low-cost coal in the world.
As per Adrian Creed of Clyde & Co, the MENA petrochemical market is forecast to grow at compound growth of 7.5% this year. Whilst that may sound like a high number, it actually represents a drop in percentage terms. Over the last decade, MENA petrochemical sector growth has been in the double digits rather than single digits. For those petrochemical products that utilise gas rather than oil as their feedstock, most of the major hydrocarbon players in the GCC (with the exception of Qatar) are struggling for gas allocations because of an increasing demand for domestic gas to be used in the utilities sector. Industrialisation and strong population growth within the GCC has given rise to an ever increasing demand for power and water. The end result for many MENA countries is that for petrochemical projects that use oil as the base feedstock, competitive pricing advantages are being lost because US and European countries now have access to cheap supply.
Polymers are continuously substituting metals, glass, paper, and other traditional materials in various applications due to its lightweight and strength and the design flexibility they offer brand owners along with low-cost. The global polymer industry is expected to grow with a CAGR of 3.9% over 2015-2020, as per Lucintel. The demand for polymer is driven by growth in end use markets, such as packaging, automotive, infrastructure, transport rails, and telecommunication mainly from emerging economies.
The thermoplastics segment is expected to witness the highest growth over the next five years. Increasing applications of engineered plastics in various fields, such as construction, automotive, and industrial manufacturing equipment to mechanical engineering is expected to drive this market. On the basis of its research, Lucintel forecasts that majority of the segments for the global polymer will have good growth during 2015-2020. Rising applications of PE, PP, PS in automotive and packaging; increasing reliance of PET and PVC in bottling of beverages; extensive use of PE,PC, PVC, PMMA films for greenhouse covering; dependence on PU, PVC for footwear are some of the key factors driving demand in the thermoplastics segment. Rising applications of polyolefin in automotive and packaging are driving the demand of the thermoplastics segment. Consistent growth of the automotive sector is expected to increase demand for elastomers in tires. Continuous technological advancements in commercial development of polymers with improved properties and processing characteristics at competitive prices for most applications will be the key factor to future growth. The APAC region is expected to make great gains over the next five years due to envisaged increase in per capita consumption of plastics.