ACC Market Survey Indicates Polyurethane Market Evolution in U.S. and Canada09 Oct 2009 • by Natalie Aster
Despite a challenging economy and declining production, the polyurethane industry continued to evolve over the past two years while addressing growing concerns over energy conservation, according to the 2008 End-Use Market Survey on the Polyurethanes Industry in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Research conducted by IAL Consultants on behalf of the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) of the American Chemistry Council, shows that overall production of polyurethane in NAFTA declined by 6.7% per year during the past two years. The figure reflects a 7.7% annual decline in U.S. markets and 10.8% decline in Canada, while Mexico has shown positive growth for the third consecutive survey. The production of polyurethane in Mexico increased at an average annual rate of 9.6% over the past two years, partly due to increased domestic demand.
"With the dip in automotive output, decreased consumer spending, high levels of imported furniture and a drop-off of activity in new housing starts, we were prepared to see a decline in polyurethane production in the U.S. and Canada,” said Neeva-Gayle Candelori, Director of CPI.
"Overall, our research shows that the industry continues to change,” said IAL Associate Director Angela Austin. "While some markets are mature, new ones have opened up. Renewable chemicals and energy efficiency continue to be important topics. Change is essential for evolution and it would be worrying if there were no signs of market evolution.”
Signs of growth in the polyurethane industry included continued increases in spray polyurethane foam demand for residential and industrial applications, as well as use of the material by the U.S. Army to insulate tents and other structures at bases in the Middle East. Polyurethane also is being used for effective wound dressings, pharmaceutical delivery media, reliable drug delivery, comfortable mobility aids, and hygienic hospital environments. The demand for low VOC and high performance coatings related to product substitutions made the decline in the production of coatings, adhesives, sealants and TPU less severe.
Though there was a sharp decrease in binder production as a result of the decline in OSB (oriented strand board) demand by the U.S. housing sector, the desire for safe and clean recreational areas has helped increase use of polyurethane binders in sports tracks and playgrounds in the past two years. New applications to improve quality of life are contributing to market evolution as well, such as new comfort levels in golf cart seating for the growing number of elderly.
Manufacturers looking to comply with new regulations and secure certification are also finding ways to create opportunities for growth. The survey shows a boost to the rigid polyurethane foam market for thicker panels needed to meet new ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards. CARB (California Air Resources Board) regulation and the CertiPUR program also helped to secure business in the bedding industry for flexible polyurethane foam.
Conducted every two years, the CPI End-Use Market Survey addresses the North American polyurethanes industry. Angela Austin of IAL Consultants presented the major findings of the survey to a group of influential scientists, engineers, manufacturers and business leaders from around the world at the closing session of the Polyurethanes 2009 Technical Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
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