By David Reed, UT EditorHouston, Texas-High scrap rates from burgeoning visco-elastic foam production are one of the unexpected factors fuelling the bounce-back of the North American polyurethanes industry, say IAL Consultants Ltd, the London, UK-based consultancy group.And, despite difficulties in the supply of some key raw materials, the urethanes business in the region-covering the US, Canada and Mexico-saw a solid 10.8-percent increase over the 2002 to 2004 period, reaching almost 8000 million pounds (3630 kilotonnes), reported Angela Austin, associate director with IAL, speaking in a 15 Oct. press conference immediately prior to the Polyurethanes 2005 conference and trade fair organized by the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry.This figure is, however, distorted by a recorded 31.9-percent leap in the Mexican PU business which, Austin emphasized, reflected IAL's more comprehensive data collection rather than any sudden boom in activity there. Even so, she continued, US business rose 10.8 percent over the two-year period, and Canada also saw double-digit growth from 588 million pounds (267 kt) to 720 million pounds (327 kt) in the year studied.The report, sponsored by the API, gives detailed breakdowns of the entire range of PU end uses in the region and showed that rigid foam use-at over 2000 million pounds (910 kt)-was now the largest market in the US, ahead of the traditionally dominant flexible foams business. This growth, Austin said, was a result of high levels of new construction in the country, coupled with increased conversions with people creating home office spaces in attics and basements as a result of changing work patterns in the business world.Another high-growth sector was thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs), which jumped more than 15 percent in the 2002-2004 period, reaching over 140 million pounds (63.5 kt). The use of MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate), and some TDI (toluene diisocyanate) in wood binders also saw solid growth, at 8.4 percent, to 690 million pounds (310 kt) in 2004Finally, PU-based coatings also saw good growth, Austin reported, reaching 714 million pounds (325 kt) in 2004, up 7.2 percent on the 2002 total.Further details of the report will be featured in the Dec. 2005/Jan. 2006 issue of Urethanes Technology. The report can be purchased, at $1500 (or $1200 for API members), plus postage ($10 postage in US; $50 outside), from the API's website: www.polyurethane.org"