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Published: June 2010
The world operating rate for polybutadiene elastomers (BR) in 2009 was estimated to have been 76%, down from 83% in 2007. The lower operating rate in 2009 was associated with a decrease in demand and thus, in production, with below-average capacity buildup because of the global economic recession during 2008–2009.
In 2009, tires and tire products were responsible for 70% of worldwide polybutadiene consumption. The dominance of tires in polybutadiene elastomer demand has declined slightly since 1980, when they accounted for 78%. Polybutadiene elastomers will continue to encounter variations in tire industry demand. Polybutadiene elastomer requirements fluctuate with industry and customer preferences for different types of tires, such as high-performance (lower BR content) or high-mileage (higher BR content). Tire wear and purchasing choices are directly influenced by driving habits and overall economic conditions. Retreading of truck tires tends to increase when prices of new tires increase. As a result, use of polybutadiene elastomers declines slightly.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polybutadiene elastomers:
Production of polybutadiene elastomers is the second-largest end use for butadiene worldwide, accounting for 27% of total butadiene consumption in 2009. This is second only to styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), which accounted for about 32% of butadiene consumption in the same year. Certain trends in different regions have influenced polybutadiene elastomer consumption. Russia and other Eastern European countries had a catastrophic drop-off in use during the 1990s because of the weakness of their economies and other problems associated with shifting from centrally planned governments. From 1990 to 1999, consumption of polybutadiene elastomers declined by about 10% per year. However, since 1999, polybutadiene elastomer consumption has experienced growth because of the more stable economies and governments. Annual growth of about 10% is expected in these countries during the forecast period of 2009–2014, especially with increased economic cooperation among European nations. In Asia, China is continually undergoing rapid economic development and technological improvements, causing polybutadiene elastomer production and consumption to increase in the forecast period. By 2014, polybutadiene elastomer consumption in China should reach one million metric tons. Polybutadiene elastomer operating rates in Asia are expected to be 85–95% in the next few years as demand continues to grow. World polybutadiene elastomer consumption is expected to grow at 4–5% per year to 2014.