Environmental regulations will continue to drive a shift toward less hazardous solvents with reduced emissions and lower toxicity. Public perception and consumer preference will also favor green products derived from renewable resources such as plant-based alcohols, soy methyl ester, and terpenes. Changes in the oil and natural gas industry will also impact demand, with reduced drilling rates in the near term holding back solvent consumption, and relatively low crude oil and natural gas prices providing a more competitive position for conventional solvents.
Demand for green solvents that avoid any of a number of potential environmental pitfalls will advance at an above average pace, offering growth opportunities in many otherwise mature applications. In particular, green solvent demand will outpace conventional solvent demand in food production, chemical processing, cosmetics and toiletries, cleaning products, and printing inks. In many cases solvent users will turn to products with lower emissions or better toxicity profiles to address tightening volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) regulations.
Beyond the greater use of biodegradable green solvents, the rapid expansion of US petroleum and natural gas production from 2010 to 2015 also helped drive solvent demand overall. Though solvent consumption in the oil and gas market was impacted in 2015 by the sharp decline in crude oil prices, which in turn caused the industry to significantly curtail well drilling and completion activity, a recovery is expected to begin by 2020 as global oil supply and demand rebalance, and prices begin to recover. Rising crude oil and natural gas prices will also impact the competitiveness of conventional solvents, which had benefited from a better cost position compared to green solvents.