US demand for solvents is expected to increase at a 1.5 percent annual pace through 2018 to 11 billion pounds, driven by a robust recovery in construction spending along with a continued rebound in manufacturing output. Strength in both nonresidential and residential building construction will stimulate not only direct solvent use in construction related activities, but also increased solvent demand in paint and coatings and other construction related materials. Solvent use in a variety of manufacturing applications, most notably in chemical processing, will be supported in part by comparatively low natural gas prices that will help boost the competitiveness of US manufacturers. These and other trends are presented in Solvents, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based market research firm.
Steadily growing environmental concerns, as well as regulatory pressure, will drive demand for “green” solvents that are derived from renewable materials. According to analyst Ryan Sullivan, “This will contribute to growth in alcohols and glycols, which will see the largest gains of all solvents.” Other green solvents such as butanediol and terpenes will see the fastest demand growth, albeit from much smaller bases.
Environmental regulations at both the state and federal levels aimed at reducing VOC emissions will continue to propel the shift from conventional solvents to green solvents. This shift has provided a boost for glycol solvent demand in the paint and coatings market, where glycol-based solvents have helped formulators achieve lower VOC content. Similarly, alcohol solvents will see increased demand from the pharmaceuticals market in order to help producers meet strict FDA and EPA regulations. Shifts in demand in the sizable printing inks market will also be affected by the trend toward greener solvent products as soy and propanol-based solvents continue to make inroads as replacements for hydrocarbons.
The paint and coatings market will replace the transportation market as the largest solvents consumer by 2018. Restrained by lengthening engine coolant flush intervals and increased consumer demand for longer-lasting, less toxic propylene glycol antifreeze, demand for solvents in the transportation market will grow at a below average pace through 2018. Additionally, solvent recycling operations will provide additional downward pressure on overall solvent demand going forward.