US demand to grow 5% annually through 2016
Demand for flame retardants in the US is expected to grow 4.6 percent per year to 938 million pounds in 2016, a significant rebound as the industry benefits from an improving economy and a turnaround in key markets like building construction and motor vehicles. Construction related applications will provide the biggest impetus to growth and continue to account for the greatest share of sales. Other factors increasing demand include stringent fire codes and flammability requirements. Environmental issues will present mixed results, with concern over the potentially deleterious health effects of halogenated flame retardants slowing growth for those compounds, especially in consumer goods, but also offering opportunities for safer alternatives.
Recession of 2007-2009 affected most flame retardant markets
The mortgage crisis and ensuing economic downturn resulted in a decline in flame retardant demand beginning in 2007 as a glut in the housing market led to a sharp downturn in residential construction. By 2009 the recession began to impact the construction of offices and commercial spaces. These trends reduced the need for flame retardants used mostly in construction, with boron (used in insulation) and chlorinated compounds (used in PVC) seeing the steepest declines. Markets closely associated with construction, such as wire and cable, upholstery, carpets and rugs, and other home furnishings, experienced similar losses. Outside the construction industry, flame retardant demand in motor vehicles and electronics also felt the severity of the recession.
Construction markets to see sharpest advances thru 2016
With the housing market bottoming out and showing signs of recovery, demand for flame retardants will also begin to improve. Flame retardants utilized in construction applications will see the sharpest improvements given that insulation, roofing, flooring, building boards, and other structural materials that all require treatment. Boron and phosphorusbased flame retardants will expand at the fastest rates. Brominated compounds will benefit from use in polystyrene and polyurethane insulation.
Outside of the construction market, a number of other uses for flame retardants will experience improved market prospects, including construction associated industries like carpeting, curtains, and other home furnishings. Wire and cable applications for both communications and power transmission will expand, along with new construction. Use in motor vehicle applications will post strong improvement along with the rebound in US motor vehicle output. The increasing use of plastics in vehicles provides additional opportunities. In contrast, the outlook for the US electronics industry is less benign and electronics applications will be the slowest growing outlets for flame retardant demand.
Non-halogenated types to benefit from safety concerns
Alumina trihydrate is by far the most important type of flame retardant used in the US market in volume terms, with 46 percent of total volume sales. However, the higher-value brominated flame retardants account for the greatest share of market value. Halogenated types will register subpar advances due to health and safety concerns, although this same issue will provide opportunities for a number of non-halogenated alternatives.
US Demand for Flame Retardants to Reach 1.1 Billion Pounds in 2016
US demand for flame retardants will expand 6.0 percent per year to 1.1 billion pounds in 2016. Robust gains in building construction -- particularly for new housing -- as well as in other closely associated markets, such as wire and cable, and home furnishings, will drive advances. Stringent fire codes and flammability requirements, especially in building materials and consumer products, will also support flame retardant sales. The shift in product mix toward lower cost non-halogenated flame retardants will be offset by their higher loading levels, with overall sales of flame retardants rising 7.8 percent per annum to $1.2 billion in 2016. With new residential building construction driving rapid increases in cellulosic insulation demand, boron compounds will register the fastest growth going forward. Alumina trihydrate will achieve strong gains as well and remain the most significant flame retardant by volume. These and other trends are presented in Flame Retardants, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.
The construction market accounted for 38 percent of total flame retardant demand by volume in 2011. Double-digit annual growth in both residential and nonresidential building spending through 2016 will lead to robust gains for flame retardants in insulation materials such as cellulose, foamed polyurethane, and polystyrene, as well as PVC and other materials used in flooring, panels, piping, and other construction products. Other flame retardant markets are also heavily impacted by building construction, including textiles (e.g., for products such as carpets, curtains, and rugs), insulated wire and cable (e.g., both in building wiring, and connectivity wiring such as fiber optics), and furniture and mattresses.
The ongoing rebound in the US motor vehicle industry will also have a positive impact on flame retardant demand. Rising vehicle production levels, the increased use of lighter weight plastic and composite materials that offer improved fuel efficiency, and elevated temperatures in under-the-hood applications due to smaller, hotter running engines will all contribute to increasing motor vehicle flame retardant demand. Efforts by Boeing and Airbus to improve airplane fuel efficiency through the increased use of composites and other plastics, along with the industry’s strict flame retardance standards, will drive gains in the aerospace market.