The global polyethylene industry experienced strong growth over the last five years and is expected to continue advancing as it reaches approximately US$148.1 bln in 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% over next five years. Strategies such as new product innovation, processes, and feedstock technologies are expected to help players capture market share, as per Lucintel. According to the report, the Asia-Pacific region dominates the polyethylene market and represents 41.8% of the global market. A combination of factors such as feedstock price (crude oil and naphtha), feedstock availability, lightweight properties, energy costs, environmental issues, and government regulations are significantly affecting the industry dynamics. The research indicates that in 2011, the industry experienced solid growth over 2010, due in part to increased government stimulus packages in infrastructure developments in the piping sector of pipe industry. Asia-Pacific is expected to have the highest growth during 2012-2017. Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world both reportedly represent sound market growth potential for the polyethylene industry during the forecast period. China and India are expected to drive the polyethylene industry due to low-cost labor, downstream processing capacity additions, and government-supported subsidy packages. They reportedly present great growth potential in the plastic films and sheet market. The introduction of ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene and sugarcane-based polyethylene are emerging trends that are expected to affect the future growth in the industry.
As per Global Markets Direct, Asia Pacific region accounted for over 43% of the global polyethylene capacity in 2008, and is expected to account for nearly 50% of the planned capacity additions until 2015. Asia Pacific region will have the maximum capacity additions of more than 12 mln tons during the period 2008-2015. In this region, China and India will account for more than 8 mln tons of future capacity additions. Most of the Chinese capacities have come in the last decade and are dominated by state owned Chinese energy companies. Unipol is the dominant technology used to manufacture polyethylene, followed by Innovene technology. Naptha is the dominant key feedstock for manufacturing polyethylene and gas phase process is the dominant process used to manufacture polyethylene, globally. Global polyethylene capacity in 2008 totaled 93.87 mln tons and Asia Pacific, North America and Europe are the major regions that accounted for over 76% of global polyethylene plant capacity in 2008. This capacity is expected to increase from 93.87 million tons in 2008 to 127.89 mln tons in 2015, at a CAGR of 4.5%. HDPE grade accounted for 46% of the global polyethylene capacity in 2008 and will see more than 44% of the polyethylene capacity additions until 2015. Major companies operating in the global polyethylene sector include The Dow Chemical Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, LyondellBasell Industries, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation and China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation. These companies accounted for 33.2% of the global polyethylene plant capacity in 2008.
As per IHS Chemical Study, global demand for the PE resins in 2012 is 79 mln metric tons (MMT) or 38% of the 208 MMT currently produced in the global thermoplastic market. Polyethylene demand growth has been moderating since 2010, when global consumption increased by 8.4% or nearly 8.6 MMT. Nonetheless, at an estimated 3.4% growth rate for 2012, the rate of increase will exceed global GDP growth this year and throughout the forecast period. According to the IHS report, global demand for PE resins is expected to grow from 79 MMT in 2012 to 99 MMT by 2017, driven largely by increased demand in high population growth Asian countries and the rapid economic development of numerous transition countries in the Asia Pacific region (including China, India and Indonesia), Central Europe, the Middle East and South America. As these countries or regions move toward more consumer based economies, plastics usage in general is forecast to increase. As in previous years, China is the largest importer of PE, accounting for more than 40% of the additional global demand for PE. The country’s average annual consumption of PE resins is projected to grow an average of more than seven percent annually or from 19 MMT to 27 MMT during 2012 to 2017. China imports more than 40% of its polyethylene requirements and, despite the start-up of massive capacity projects over the next five years, will continue to import more than 8 mln metric tons of polyethylene per year from 2012 to 2017. During the next 25 years, China will add an additional 35 MMT of polyethylene consumption, and by 2035, China’s per-capita consumption will likely match the current levels of developed countries. By comparison, the report notes that Western Europe is projected to advance at an average annual growth rate of only 1.6% through the forecast period. Film and sheet production, which covers a multitude of end-uses including the aforementioned food packages, trash bags and stretch and shrink films, consumes more than 50% of PE resins produced, making it by far the largest application for PE plastics. Blow molding and injection molding combined consume 25% of PE resins, with their individual shares almost equally divided. High-density PE (HDPE) blow-molded bottles used for milk, juice, motor oil, and laundry detergent are the largest single end-use within the blow-molding category. Pipe and profiles is the only other major demand segment for PE, accounting for 7% of the global polyethylene consumption, with end-use generally concentrated in the construction industry.