Color Pigments, Organic
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Published: October 2011
The worldwide pigments industry produces hundreds of colorant, extender and functional pigments for a wide spectrum of industrial and consumer markets.
The migration of the pigments business to Asia, particularly China and India, continues. Since the mid-1990s, production in China and India has rapidly increased; China is now the world's largest organic color pigment producer, especially for commodity-type pigments. Additional medium-tier to higher-value organic pigments may also migrate to China from North America, Europe and Japan. Production in Europe, the United States and Japan continues on a downward trend as the market has become globalized and gross margins have been squeezed, leading to plant shutdowns and restructurings. The volume of unfinished pigments imported to North America, Western Europe and Japan for finishing continues to decrease as more finished pigment is imported from China.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of organic color pigments:
Globally, printing inks account for 55–60% of demand, coatings about 20%, plastics about 15% and other industries such as textiles for the remainder. The printing market for publication of newsprint and periodicals has fallen as a result of competition from the Internet, but demand for printing inks for packaging remains strong. The next-largest market is coatings for automotive production. After bottoming out in 2009, vehicle production started to rise again in 2010. It is expected that global consumption for organic pigments will increase by 4% per year from 2011 to 2016.
By pigment class, 50–55% of the world value share is azo pigments; phthalocyanines (blue and green) have a 20% share. High-performance and other pigments account for the remaining 25–30%. The classic azo and phthalocyanine pigment groups are characterized by lower profit margins as a result of rising competition from lower-priced imports, while the high-performance pigments group typically retains higher margins.
Overall growth in the United States and Europe is expected to be around 2% per year on average between 2011 and 2016, as demand recovers from the poor results in 2009. The long-term trend in use of inks for newspapers and publications is downward as a result of competition from electronic media and devices. However, consumption of organic pigments for colored inks is expected to grow somewhat as a result of greater production of advertising leaflets and catalogs, and usage in packaging.
China is the principal global supplier of red and yellow azo-based pigments and their intermediates. India is the principal global supplier of blue and green phthalocyanine-based pigments and their intermediates.
The ink industries in North America and Europe have become largely dependent on Asian supplies of raw materials and pigments. In recent years, there have been supply disruptions of certain pigments leading to sharply rising prices for some pigments in 2010–2011.
Supplies have been disrupted from China for several reasons, among which are the following:
- Exports of pigments from China have been subsidized by the government in the past, but authorities have removed many subsidies to encourage domestic Chinese consumption, and are now taxing some exports.
- A number of smaller Chinese producers have been put out of business because of government crackdown on polluters.
- The implementation of REACH is negatively affecting exports to Europe.
It is likely that supplies will be subject to more fluctuations in the future. The environmental practices of Indian producers will likely come under more scrutiny from governmental authorities, which could result in closures of many small, noncomplying producers.