Bio-based polymers: Will the positive growth trend continue?

  • 11% growth rate  from 2013 to 2014
  • Growth rate is expected to decrease in 2015
  • Bio-based drop-in PET and new polymer PHA show highest growth rates
  • Comprehensive market study of bio-based polymers

The bio-based polymer turnover was about €11 billion worldwide in 2014 compared to €10 billion in 2013. Europe looses considerable shares in total production to Asia. And bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymer PHA show the fastest rates of market growth: The third edition of the market study “Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers in the World – Capacities, Production and Applications: Status Quo and Trends Towards 2020” was published today. It includes data from the year 2012 to the latest data of 2014 and the recently published data from European Bioplastics, the association representing the interests of Europe’s bioplastics industry.

10% growth rate from 2012 to 2013

In 2013, most of the polymers’ production capacities increased and contributed to the observed 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2013. Polyamides (PA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) showed, with CAGR around 30%, the highest CAGR. In 2014, only few polymers contributed to the 11% CAGR from 2013 to 2014. Only epoxies and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) enjoy a strong market growth. Epichlorohydrin, whose production capacity increased, is precursor of epoxies and is produced from bio-based glycerin, a by-product from the biodiesel production. However, the overall growth rate is expected to decrease in 2015. This can certainly be explained by the low oil price and the low political support for bio-based polymers.

overview bio-based polymers

Overview on the covered bio-based polymers and the producing companies with their locations and production capacities from 2012 to 2014 – with corresponding yearly growth rates (source: Nova Institut)

Bio-based polymers feature 10% growth rate, petrochemical polymers only 3-4%

The production capacity for bio-based polymers boasts very impressive development and annual growth rates, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 10% in comparison to petrochemical polymers, which have a CAGR between 3-4%. The 5.7 million tonnes bio-based polymer production capacity represent approximately a 2% share of overall structural polymer production at 256 million tonnes in 2013 and a bio-based polymer turnover of about €11 billion in 2014 (5.7 Mio. t (production capacity) x €2.50/kg (estimated average bio-based polymer price) x 0,8 (capacity utilization rate)). With an expected total polymer production of about 400 million tonnes in 2020, the bio-based share should increase from 2% in 2013 to more than 4% in 2020, meaning that bio-based production capacity will grow faster than overall production.

bio-based polymers worldwide production capacities

Bio-based drop-in PET and new polymer PHA show highest growth rates

The most dynamic development is foreseen for drop-in bio-based polymers, but this is closely followed by new bio-based polymers. Drop-in bio-based polymers are chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts but at least partially derived from biomass. This group is spearheaded by partly bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET), largely due to the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) initiative launched by The Coca-Cola Company. The second most dynamic development is foreseen for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which, contrary to bio-based PET, are new polymers, but still have similar growth rates to those of bio-based PET. Polybutylene succinate (PBS) and polylactic acid (PLA) are showing impressive growth as well: their production capacities are expected to almost quadruple between 2014 and 2020.
Most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia because of better access to feedstock and favorable political framework. Europe’s share is projected to decrease from 15.4% to 4.9%, and North America’s share is set to fall from 14% to 4.1%, whereas Asia’s is predicted to increase from 58.1% to 80.6%. South America is likely to remain constant with a share between 10% and 12%. In other words, world market shares are expected to shift dramatically. Asia is predicted to experience most of the developments in the field of bio-based building block and polymer production, while Europe and North America are slated to lose more than two thirds of their shares.

Comprehensive market study of bio-based polymers

Two years after the first market study was released, Germany’s nova-Institute publishes the third edition of the most comprehensive market study of bio-based polymers ever made in November 2015. This update expands the market study’s range, including bio-based building blocks as precursor of bio-based polymers. The nova-Institute carried out this study in collaboration with renowned international experts from the field of bio-based building blocks and polymers. The 500 page-report is made up of three parts: “market data”, “trend reports” and “company profiles” and contains over 200 tables and figures.

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