Kissimmee, Florida -- The North American polyurethane industry is continuing its recovery from the slump of 2008 but still has not reached 2004 levels, according to Hanne Hirsimaki of IAL Consultants.
Hirsimaki presented details of the 2014 End-Use Market Survey on the Polyurethanes Industry in the United States, Canada and Mexico, commissioned by the Center for the Polyurethane Industry annual technical conference.
The NAFTA market produced 7,654 bn lbs (3.47 MT) of PU in 2014, according to IAL. The biggest growth in consumption was from rigid applications and has helped grow the market from 6,920m lbs in 2012 to 7,654m lbs, Hirsimaki said.
She added that rigid foam now accounts for around 33% of the US market for polyurethane materials and flexible accounts for around 21%.
Construction is the largest end use sector consuming around 2,705m lbs in NAFTA in 2014, the IAL figures show. The appliance sector accounts for around 568m lbs, Hirsimaki said. Both of these areas have been driven by regulations demanding greater energy-efficiency in appliances and in construction.
These regulations have helped PIR grow by 15% between 2012 and 2014. Spray foam also saw double digit growth in the period, Hirsimaki said. The MDI market is benefiting from a move towards oriented strand board in North American construction, she said.
Polyurethane elastomers also benefited from the trend away from concrete to soft playgrounds made with reclaimed rubber and this area is “growing fast compared to other sectors,” she added.
The resurgence in the US automotive sector has helped the polyurethane industry in two ways, Hirsimaki said. Firstly, the US is making more motors; car production reached 16m in 2014 and is up 60% from the low point in 2008. “Polyurethane is 10% of the plastic contained in the average car,” she said.
Secondly, fuel efficiency standards are becoming increasingly stringent, and this is driving designers into light weighting. This is an area where foamed and reactive polyurethane is playing a role, she added.
US demand totalled 6,173m lbs in 2014, Hirsimaki said. Canada’s demand was 648m lbs and Mexico was 883m lbs. “The upward trend in US consumption continues, and Mexico is growing faster than Canada,” she added.
In Canada around 41% of demand in 2014 was for rigid foam, flexible moulded foam accounted for around 14% of the 648m lbs. Flexible slabstock accounts for around 12%. The Canadian construction sector has been stagnant between 2012 and 2014, Hirsimaki said. Despite this, there has been “growth in spray foam and PIR applications.
In Mexico rigid foam accounted for 39% of demand. A strong auto industry there was the impetus behind the moulded flexible foam sector’s 12% of demand in 2014, which was equal to the demand from country's slabstock market in 2014.
Mexico’s automotive sector is export led. “80% of vehicle are exported to the US” Hirsimaki said.
“There is still room for growth, Hirsimaki said, adding “because we are still below 2004.”
The report is available from IAL consultants.