HOUSTON (Feb. 16, 2 p.m. ET) — After falling in 2009, global demand for polycarbonate grew 3 percent in 2011, driven mainly by automotive, appliance and electronics applications, according to a new report from IHS Chemical.
Electrical and electronic applications are the largest end-use for polycarbonates, accounting for 20 percent global demand at around 720,000 metric tons in 2011. The key driver for this market will be the increased use of consumer electronics, such as tablet devices and flat screen televisions.
“Polycarbonates are light, heat-resistant, very strong, and they have excellent optical qualities,” the report stated. “As the trend toward larger TVs continues, polycarbonate is increasingly preferred over acrylic sheet for backlight diffusers in these larger TVs, since greater dimensional stability is required, which cannot be offered by acrylic sheet, especially at the high temperatures generated in the backlight unit.”
The sheet and film sector, which primarily serves the construction industry, accounted for 18 percent of global demand, while optical media (CDs/DVDs) made up 18 percent and automotive 12 percent.
Several companies produce polycarbonate globally, but two companies, Bayer and Sabic, produce the lion's share of world supply, owning around 28 percent and 25 percent of global capacity, respectively.
Looking forward, IHS Chemical says world demand for polycarbonate is expected to grow at an average rate of slightly less than 5 percent during the next five years, reaching around 4.5m metric tons by the end of 2016.
Northeast Asia, which is already the largest producing region, is growing the most rapidly in terms of capacity additions and so will ultimately dominate all other regions in terms of supply.
“One of the key reasons for this is that so many of the world's consumer durable goods are produced in Northeast Asia, that it just makes sense for companies to build the polycarbonate production facilities close by,” IHS said.