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Published: November 2011
Butyl rubber's most outstanding characteristic is its low permeability to air and other gases, such as carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen and nitrogen. More than eight times better than natural rubber in air impermeability, butyl rubber is widely used in inner tubes, air cushions, pneumatic spring, and other products. Butyl rubber is also noted for high electrical resistivity and excellent resistance to ozone and weathering, oxidation, heat (thermal stability), vibration damping, moisture and inorganic chemicals.
Butyl rubber is a mature product in North America and Western Europe. Consumption growth (average annual growth rate) in these regions is forecast at around 0–1% through 2016. Much higher growth rates are expected for Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia. North America and Europe are major net exporters of butyl elastomers. The East Asian countries are major net importers.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of butyl elastomers:
Tires, tubes and tire products have accounted for roughly 83% of butyl rubber consumption in recent years (on a global basis). The remaining 17% is consumed in adhesives and sealants, pharmaceutical uses, automotive mechanical goods and other uses.
The butyl elastomers business is very consolidated. Worldwide, there are only seven producers of butyl elastomers left in the market. The leading world producers are ExxonMobil, LANXESS and Nizhnekamskneftekhim. ExxonMobil is the world's largest butyl elastomers producer.
Current global capacity for butyl elastomers will not be sufficient to meet 2016 global demand, necessitating capacity additions in the forecast period of 2010–2016. Most of this new capacity will be added in Asia, as demand warrants. By 2016, China is forecast to become the largest producer in the world. Singapore and India will build new plants, and it is probable capacity will be added in Saudi Arabia. Additional capacity will be added in Belgium by 2012 to relieve some of the short-term market tightness.