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Published: April 2011
The group of waxes profiled in this report is a composite of ten of the more significant wax types commercially available today. A generally accepted definition of the term wax does not exist, primarily because of the large number of products with waxlike properties and the chemical complexity of individual wax types. Selection of the ten wax types surveyed is based largely on commercial importance and volumes consumed.
Globally, the most-consumed wax types are petroleum waxes (categorized under mineral waxes), with about 85% of total wax consumed. This is followed by synthetic waxes such as polyolefin waxes and Fischer-Tropsch waxes, which account for about 12% of the total. The remainder of waxes consumed are vegetable and animal waxes.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of waxes:
Waxes are used in a wide variety of applications and are important contributors in many household and industrial products. Their many uses include paper coatings, candles, textile and leather products, polishes, adhesives, fruit and vegetable coatings, cosmetics, medicinals, inks, lubricants, rubber compounding, and plastics compounding. These applications cover a broad marketing spectrum from commodity-type markets, such as paper coatings, to more specialty-type markets, such as cosmetics. Waxes are typically processed and blended to meet specific performance requirements.
China is the leading petroleum wax producer and exporter in the world, and this is expected to continue. The United States, Europe and China together accounted for over 85% of total petroleum wax consumption in 2010. Consumption growth will be driven by China, along with Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The United States and Western Europe will maintain high volumes, but will grow only moderately.
Growth in world consumption annually is expected to be 2.5%, driven by relatively strong growth in China (4% per year), and increases of 2.5–3.0% annually in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The high-volume markets of the United States and Western Europe will experience moderate growth of about 2% and 1.8%, respectively. Japan will decline about 0–1% per year.
China's future wax growth will rely on domestic GDP growth. Japan's wax decline has followed the decline in its manufacturing industry. Other regional growth, such as in the Middle East, will occur as a result of access to crude oil for petroleum wax, or to GTL technologies for synthetic wax. U.S. and Western European growth will be limited by domestic supply.
In many regions, candle use will continue to account for a large part of consumption. Waxes for candles will continue to grow at a steady rate across regions. Other consumer goods applications such as cosmetics and personal care items will also increase globally.
This report focuses on naturally occurring and synthetic waxes that are commercially significant. The discussion is divided into sections on mineral waxes (montan, ozokerite and ceresin), petroleum waxes (paraffin, microcrystalline, petrolatum and slack), synthetic waxes (polyethylene and Fischer-Tropsch), vegetable waxes (carnauba, candelilla, Japan, ouricury, jojoba and rice), and animal and insect waxes (beeswax and wool grease/lanolin). Modified naturally occurring waxes are also discussed briefly.