December 2005

Survey says polyurethanes showing double digit growth

Houston, TX— The results of the 2004 End Use Market Survey of the Polyurethanes Industry in the United States, Canada and Mexico indicate that the polyurethanes industry has been on a firm growth track during the last two years. Between 2002 and 2004, production of polyurethane products grew 10.8 percent overall due to general economic growth since the 9/11 attack, as well as returning consumer confidence and an increasing use of polyurethane materials in products that promote greater comfort in the living environment. This compares to relative flat growth experienced between 2000 and 2002.

Angela Austin of IAL Consultants, the firm that conducted the survey, commented, “During the past two years, the North American polyurethanes industry has balanced the reality of raw material shortages and deteriorating production economics with growth in a number of product areas that impact quality of life. In the United States, that growth has been stimulated by new products, such as viscoelastic foam and low-density rigid spray foams, as well as changes in consumer spending on such items as hardwood floors that require polyurethane coatings. Consumers have been purchasing larger refrigerators for their kitchens and additional units for other areas of the house, and larger vehicles, including minivans and SUVs, all of which use substantial amounts of polyurethane.”

The results of the 2004 End Use Market Survey were released just before the start of Polyurethanes 2005 Technical Conference and Trade Fair. More than 1,450 attendees from 32 countries were in Houston to discuss polyurethane technology and trends. The show ran October 17 – 19.

Volume Up Across the Region
According to the survey, the North American polyurethanes industry volume for 2004 was 7,911.6 million pounds. Only Europe produced more than the NAFTA region in 2004 with 8,820 million pounds. In the United States, volume was 6,692.5 million pounds, up from 5,564 million pounds in 2002 and representing an annual 9.7 percent growth rate since 2002. The total United States production in 2004 was more than the total amount of polyurethane that was produced for the entire NAFTA region in 2002.

Similar to survey results presented in 2002, growth was high in Canada, where production of polyurethane materials increased 10.7 percent between 2002 and 2004. During that period, Canadian polyurethane production totaled 720 million pounds, up from 588 million pounds in the 2000 to 2002 period. In addition, Canadian production accounted for 9 percent of the total NAFTA market.

Mexico volume was 499.1 million pounds and was bolstered by an increase in demand for Mexican raw materials. Many United States companies produce appliances, footwear, textiles, and furniture in Mexico for export, and this supported strong growth in domestic polyurethane production.

Austin commented, “Overall, the polyurethanes industry has continued to grow at a rate equal or greater than GDP across the NAFTA region, despite the maturity of its main end use industries — construction, refrigeration, automotive and furniture — in the United States and Canada.”

The report also showed that the top three polyurethane end-use applications remained unchanged from two years ago: construction, transportation, and furniture. Foam scrap and bedding rounded out the rest of the top five applications.

Recycling
According to the survey results, the polyurethanes industry continues to make significant contributions towards environmental sustainability. In the last two years, the industry has strived to reduce Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions, transitioned to new blowing agents to reduce ozone depletion, and worked to eliminate Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) from flexible foams. However, new regulations regarding the elimination of PBDE may restrict the use of domestic scrap foam in the production of flooring underlay. In the past, the industry has used large volumes of post-consumer and post-production (domestic and imported) flexible foam as carpet cushion, which represents a major contribution to the flexible foam recycling effort. The new legislation eliminating PBDE from foam products may prevent the use of scrap foam, which would cause an increase in the volume of foam going into landfills.

The End Use Market Survey was sponsored by the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, a business unit of the American Plastics Council.

The survey can be purchased online at www.polyurethane.org.


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