Technical Papers Plastics
Growing demands for super absorbent polymers to drive growth of acrylic acid market

Growing demands for super absorbent polymers to drive growth of acrylic acid market

Acrylic acid and its derivatives are widely used in industrial processing. Growing demands in super absorbent polymers are expected to be the major drivers for the market growth. The major markets for acrylic acid and its derivatives include surface coatings, adhesives, plastic additives and co-monomers. Acrylic esters include methyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate (2-EHA) and others. It is also used to produce polyacrylic acid or cross-linked polyacrylic acid compounds, which are used in the manufacture of super absorbent polymers. These polymers have wide range of applications in hygienic products, detergents, and waste water treatment chemicals. Substitution to higher performance formulations and increasing building and construction industries in emerging countries are the factors driving acrylic polymers into coatings and sealants. However, growing demand for baby diapers in emerging countries such as China and South Korea has been increasing the demand for SAPs and WTPs. This led to growing preference of super absorbent polymers across the globe. Super absorbent polymers market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 5.2% by 2018. During the next five years, 2-Ethylhexyl esters are expected to occupy the second largest share of the market among the acrylates growing with a CAGR of 4.6% from 2013 to 2018.

In the year 2012, Asia-Pacific region was the second largest market for acrylic acid and would remain in that position till 2018. The European market was the largest consumer for acrylic acid derivatives in 2012, whereas, North American market was the largest consumer of acrylic acid in 2012. The demand trend for acrylic acid and its derivatives is expected to increase gradually in Asia-Pacific till 2018. Developing countries in Asia-Pacific region such as, China and South Korea represent the prominent markets for acrylics. The rising disposable income levels of the individuals, growing population, and strong economic conditions support promising growth in super absorbent polymers. These conditions have attracted many global players such as BASF (Germany), Dow Chemical Company (U.S.), Nippon Shokubai (Japan), and others to venture into these markets with local production facilities. This has driven the demand for acrylic acid and its derivatives in the region significantly. Due to increasing population, improving lifespan, and other demands have significantly improved the demand and growth of super absorbent polymers market. The major application of SAP is found in personal disposable hygiene products such as baby diapers, adult protective underwear, and sanitary napkins. It is also used for blocking water penetration in underground power or communications cables, horticultural water retention agents, control of spill and waste aqueous fluids, and artificial snow for motion picture and stage production. The super absorbent polymers have already started gaining a significant market share among acrylic polymers globally. Even the water treatment polymers have high potential for deep penetration rate in the developing countries. The SAP and WTP are widely preferred across the globe. Surface coatings are the largest application for acrylic acid and its derivatives, accounting for almost half of the overall acrylic acid and its derivatives market in 2012. Due to increasing population and improved lifestyle, the applications have significantly increased the demand for acrylic acid and its derivatives in the past few years. Many of the acrylic acid manufacturers and thereby OEM providers are shifting their focus towards developing regions. This would help the acrylic acid and its derivatives market to grow in developing countries. On the contrary, the demand for plastic additives is growing on a long run and hence the demand for co-monomers would grow at a slower rate.

Acrylic acid & esters is the general term for acrylic acid (AA) and acrylic esters (AE). In 2007-2011, global capacity of both crude acrylic acid (CAA) and common acrylic esters (CAE), inclusive of methyl acrylate (MA), ethyl acrylate (EA), butyl acrylate (BA) ethyl hexyl acrylate (EHA),etc., presented an upward trend, with compound growth rates of 2.03% and 3.39%, respectively. As of end-2011, global capacity of CAA and CAE reached 5.32 mln tpa and 4.776 mln tpa, mainly distributed in the United States, Europe, Japan and China, which accounted for a total of 88.42% and 81.4%, respectively. In 2011, the global acrylic acid consumption amounted to 5.21 mln tons, of which, that used for producing super absorbent polymer (SAP), paints & coatings, adhesives occupied 63%. The acrylic acid & esters industry characterizes a relatively high concentration. In 2011, CAA and CAE capacity of the world’s top ten producers, i.e. BASF SE, Dow Chemical Company, Arkema, Nippon Shokubai, Jiangsu Jurong Chemical Co., Ltd., Formosa Plastics Corporation, Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid Co., Ltd., LG Chem, Zhejiang Satellite Petro Chemical Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation held a global share of 91.4% and 84.8%, separately, of which, Jiangsu Jurong Chemical (foreign-controlled), Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid and Zhejiang Satellite Petro Chemical are located in the territory of China. Also in 2011, Jiangsu Jurong Chemical, relying on the production capacity of 365,000 tpa CAA and 350,000 tpa CAE, ranked first among Chinese acrylic acid & esters manufacturers, followed by Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid. In China, the acrylic acid & esters industry has seen rapid development in recent years, with basic self-sufficiency, but accompanied by fierce competition among manufacturers. From 2007 to 2011, CAA production rose from 697,000 tons to 1.165 million tons, with a CAGR of 13.7%; CAE production climbed from 732,000 tons to 1.163 mln tons, with a CAGR of 12.3%. Furthermore, major producers have been continuously expanding their capacity. BASF, the world’s largest acrylic acid & esters manufacturer, has reached the level of 160,000 tpa CAA and 155,000 tpa CAE via the joint venture construction of BASF-YPC Company Limited with Sinopec Group. In January 2012, BASF announced the establishment of a new set of 190,000 tpa fine acrylic acid device in the Nanjing Chemical Industry Park, so as to further increase its market share in China.

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