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Published: February 2009
In most markets, hydrogen peroxide functions as a bleach or oxidizer. As such, it often competes with other chemicals capable of performing similarly. Some derivatives (e.g., perborates) also function as bleaching or oxidizing agents. Regional cost differences, consumer preference and technical differences in product performance enter into the decision to use hydrogen peroxide or one of its derivatives rather than another product. Since these considerations vary by region, the consumption patterns vary among the different parts of the world.
Apparent consumption of hydrogen peroxide on a global basis has increased substantially over the past few years, driven by global growth in the pulp and paper industry, in particular in China, Southeast Asia and South America. In South America, mining is also a growing sector of demand. Production of propylene oxide via the HPPO process is another important application that started to consume large quantities of hydrogen peroxide at SKC's Republic of Korea plant in 2008. The sector will further increase in importance for the hydrogen peroxide industry with additional large-scale HPPO plants to come on stream in the forecast period.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of hydrogen peroxide:
North American production experienced a decline in November and December 2008. North American consumption is forecast to decline 3–5% in 2009 as a result of the dismal economic environment, particularly for the pulp and paper segment. However, during 2008–2013, North American demand is forecast to grow at 1.0% annually.
The long-term trend for Central and South America is for strong growth—5.7% annually during 2008–2013—owing to the pulp and paper industry. Some weakening is expected in 2009, with some reduction in production expected and several pulp mill projects delayed. Despite this, growth in pulp production and its associated hydrogen peroxide consumption is forecast to remain strong.
In the forecast period, the European market is predicted to grow significantly. The largest part of the expected growth will come from the use of hydrogen peroxide in an HPPO complex at Antwerp.
China's hydrogen peroxide market has developed tremendously to more than thirty times the level in 1990. The large markets for hydrogen peroxide include pulp bleaching, textile bleaching, the manufacture of chemicals, and use in the electronics, food, and pharmaceutical industries. Arkema started a production plant in Shanghai at the end of 2008 and now has a significant capacity in China.
The primary factor driving hydrogen peroxide consumption in the past was consumption in the pulp and paper industry, and it will remain one of the driving elements of consumption. However, production of propylene oxide via the HPPO process will contribute to future growth in the industry. Apart from the existing plant in the Republic of Korea, the Antwerp plant of the Dow/BASF joint venture, as well as the Map Ta Phut plant, will begin consuming large amounts of hydrogen peroxide in the forecast period.