World catalyst demand to exceed US$20 billion in 2018

 PUBLISHED ON 08/01/2015

According to a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based market research firm, demand for catalysts – including chemical synthesis, petroleum refining, and polymerisation catalysts – will grow 4.8%/y to US$20.6 billion in 2018.

Growth will be led primarily by a rebound in the chemical and polymer industries, most notably in developed economies hit hard by the recession. The fastest advanced, however, will be in the developing world, where rising income levels and vehicle ownership rates and rapid industrialisation will encourage capacity expansion in all catalyst consuming markets.

Regional shifts in feedstocks will lift demand for generally higher value chemical synthesis catalysts. In China, abundant coal resources and a focus on coal-to-olefins technology will support demand for synthesis gas. According to analyst Ryan Sullivan: “The shale gas boom and low natural gas prices in North America will fuel a similar shift in that region”.

Polymerisation catalyst demand will rise at a healthy pace in response to accelerating global polymer production. However, the commodity nature of many polymers and varying raw material costs will encourage a focus on product differentiation that will drive a shift in the polymer catalyst product mix, especially in developed regions.

Tightening environmental regulations will have a profound impact on the petroleum refining catalyst market. Efforts to combat global warming by improving fuel efficiency will limit advances in refinery catalyst demand as increases in refined product consumption and output moderate at a global level.

At the same time, growing interest in diesel powered vehicles (which are often more fuel efficient) will help drive a shift in refinery catalyst product mix as refiners turn to hydrocracking and fluid catalytic cracking catalysts capable of producing a larger volume of high value refined products.

Efforts by developing countries such as China, India, and Russia to battle air pollution by reducing fuel sulphur levels will continue to stimulate demand for hydrotreating catalyst. However, the challenging nature of the global crude oil supply, particularly the increased availability of tight oil crude that are lower in sulphur content, may restrain growth in hydrotreating catalyst consumption in more developed markets. Opportunities will exist, though, for catalysts that allow refiners flexibility in responding to the changing nature of the crude oil supply.