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U.S. demand for solvents to reach 10.9 billion pounds in 2016

November 14, 2012

U.S. solvents demand will continue to rebound from its recessionary lows, rising 1.5% per year in volume terms through 2016 to 10.9 billion pounds.  A strong rebound in construction activity will drive strong increases in solvent demand in the construction and paints and coatings markets.  Above average growth in consumer oriented markets such as cleaning products and cosmetics and toiletries will stimulate demand for “green” solvents, particularly butanediol derivatives, terpenes, and alcohols.  These and other trends are presented in “Solvents,” a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.  

Demand growth for green solvents will significantly outpace that for conventional types, rising nearly four times faster than conventional solvents.  The rising use of green solvents, especially in cleaning products and cosmetics and toiletries, will reflect increasing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.  Government regulations are also driving the shift, both at the state and federal levels.  In particular, the need to meet volatile organic compound (VOC) regulations has benefited demand for glycol solvents in the paints and coatings.  Chemical processors looking to comply with VOC regulations are increasingly turning toward butanediol and its derivatives to lower VOC content while continuing to use solvents.  While complying with local, state, and federal regulations, the construction market has been increasingly turning towards alcohols and ketones like MEK for solvent uses.  In the cleaning products, cosmetic and toiletries, and pharmaceutical markets, the need to meet stringent Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations has prompted greater demand for alcohols -- in particular, ethanol. 

While a rebound in construction spending and an improving economy will support higher solvents demand in most markets, transportation solvent demand will continue to suffer due to the impact of longer recommended engine coolant flush intervals and the increasing popularity of extended life antifreezes.  This will also contribute to below average demand growth for glycols, which account for a significant portion of transportation market solvents demand.  Additionally, solvents demand in some markets will be constrained by ongoing efforts to implement integrated solvent recycling operations and introduce new and/or reformulated products containing less solvent. 

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