Specialty Paper Chemicals
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Published: September 2012
The global specialty paper chemicals market accounts for approximately 50% of the total global paper chemicals market on a value basis.
Specialty paper chemicals can be classified into three groups according to their function and point of use in the paper production process:
- Pulp and fiber treatment chemicals such as deinking, bleaching and pulping chemicals
- Processing aids, which are used to improve the efficiency of paper production, including retention and drainage aids, pitch-control agents, defoamers/deaerators and biocides/slimicides
- Functional chemicals, which are used to impart various properties to the finished paper, ranging from improved strength and optical properties to enhanced printability (dry- and wet-strength resins, sizing agents, coating binders, and specialties, as well as dyes, pigments and fluorescent whitening agents)
Specialty paper chemicals help reduce the consumption of water and energy and increase the use of wastepaper as well as save raw materials by decreasing the paper weight without sacrificing the functional or optical properties of the paper sheet. They also enabled the tremendous speed increase of paper machines. Often, they are formulations of several chemicals, but there are also many single-chemical products. Water treatment chemicals used in the paper industry are not included in the specialty paper chemicals category.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of specialty paper chemicals on a value basis:
Quality requirements for new and existing products, productivity, costs and environmental issues in the papermaking process are the main driving forces for R&D activities, capital investment, growth in consumption, and selection of specialty paper chemicals. Trends for various specialty paper chemical groups are as follows:
- The increasing substitution of virgin wood pulp by recycled fibers will increase the use of deinking chemicals and specialty chemicals such as defoamers, chelates and thickeners.
- Fillers and coating pigments are increasingly used as less expensive replacements for pulp.
The major objectives for paper producers are attaining or improving profitability, meeting customer needs, and embracing technological change, particularly to meet regulations but also to meet the first two objectives. The changing needs of paper producers and a highly competitive marketplace create a very selective environment for improved, new and different specialty paper chemicals. Among a number of major issues impacting the global specialty paper chemicals industry are the following:
- Consolidation, causing mill closures and fewer, larger customers.
- Closed-loop water systems, reducing effluent discharge and creating new chemical demands.
- Partnering of paper companies with a few select suppliers, generally decreasing the number of distributors.
- Higher collection and utilization of reclaimed fiber from postindustrial and postconsumer waste in place of virgin pulp; however, China competes for imports of this recovered paper, particularly from the United States, as it needs a source of pulp for its rapidly growing, but pulp-deficient paper industry.
By volume, chemical and mechanical pulps account for approximately 50% of total raw material consumption while recycled paper accounts for a share of about 32%. Commodity-type chemicals such as chlorine and oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, sodium salts and sulfuric acid (used mainly in pulp production), and fillers and pigments (mostly China clay and calcium carbonate) represent about 15% of total raw material consumption. To reduce costs and achieve environmental and regulatory compliance objectives, the use of virgin fibers (especially chemical pulps) and alum is expected to decrease, while recycled paper fibers, fillers and pigments, and specialty paper chemicals will extend their share in the raw material mix of the paper and board industry.
In constant US dollar terms, consumption of specialty paper chemicals on a global basis is forecast to grow very slowly, at about 1% annually, over the next five years. Regionally, growth patterns appear very different. Consumption is expected to decrease at an average annual rate of 3% in the NAFTA region; increase at 3–4% in Central and South America; decrease at 3–4% in Western Europe; increase at 2–3% in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa; and increase at 3% in Japan and 4.5% in the rest of Asia during 2011–2016. China's consumption of specialty paper chemicals reflects its disproportionately high production of lower-value grades of paper and paperboard, which require less specialty paper chemicals. However, growth in consumption of paper chemicals in China is the highest in the world, with 6–6.5% per year as new paper production capacity is added, and higher grades of paper are produced.