Polymer Industry

Keep on Track, Despite Market Turmoils: The Future of Polymers

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India, the second largest Asiatic market, still has considerable accumulated demand: Forecasts presume a doubling of plastics consumption to 20 million tons by 2020. According to the estimates of the Plastindia Foundation, the per-head consumption will be approx. 16 kg in 2016 (in comparison: a Central European consumes 130 kg per year on an average).

Is Europe Lagging Behind?

While the chemicals industry is happy about the impressive market development for polymers in the Far-East, the plastics processors are groaning: The weak Euro, large demand in Asia and the US, and the short-term failure of several large polyolefin plants have forced the subject of raw materials safety back on the agenda: EuPC (European Plastics Converters, the umbrella association of European plastics processing companies) thus formed the “Alliance for Polymer Supply in Europa”, an information network which is expected to provide support on raw materials or customs duty problems.

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But not only raw materials but also energy costs are of considerable importance for the entire plastics industry. Especially in Germany, where the power tariffs are among the highest in Europe, criticism from all branches is very vocal. In particular the notorious energy-hungry chemicals industry fears that it could be overtaken by competitors in the US, who are benefiting from cheap shale oil.

Looking for New Feedstock

Many eyes are thus focused on the petrochemicals giant Ineos, which of late is importing ethane from US shale gas to Norway. The first shale-based polyethylene from Europe will presumably see market introduction within a few months. Ineos is also on the starting blocks for the promotion of shale gas in the UK, although no actual fracking is planned in 2016. The company wants to use shale gas as an energy resource as well as a basic feedstock for polymers.