Published July 2014
The leading application for carbon black is as a reinforcing agent in the production of rubber goods, accounting for more than 90% of total carbon black consumption. In 2013, use in tires accounted for 73% of world consumption, with other rubber goods (hoses, belts, etc.) accounting for an additional 20%; consumption for nonrubber goods (plastics, inks, paints, etc.) accounted for the remaining 7% of world consumption. While specialty carbon blacks account for only 7% of the total market in tonnage, they command a significantly higher selling price than commodity furnace black, and thus will be the focus of future research and development activities.
Because the growth of carbon black is so closely tied to the automotive industry and the production of tires, as the global automobile industry has moved east to China, India and Eastern Europe, the tire industry has followed, and with it the carbon black producers. (The availability of natural rubber in Southeast Asia is also a factor in the tire industrys investment pattern.)
The following pie chart shows world consumption of carbon black:
Asia, excluding Japan, will be the fastest-growing region in the world, followed by Central and Eastern Europe. China and India, in particular, will have the greatest gains, as a result of the continued expansion of their motor vehicle and tire industries.
Specialty blacks will offer the greatest growth potential, but from a much smaller base, and will garner the highest prices per kilogram of all carbon blacks. Specialty blacks also offer producers protection from the cyclicality of the rubber and automotive industries. Demand for specialty blacks is concentrated primarily in the plastics, ink and paint industries; use as conductive fillers for batteries is also a growth market in Asia.
The carbon black industry is continuing a long-term trend toward concentration and consolidation in ownership among its suppliers. Petroleum companies have exited the business, which is now dominated by chemical companies for whom carbon black is a core product. Almost all major producers are global in the scope of their operations. The five largest producers are Cabot Corporation, the Birla Carbon Group, Orion Engineered Carbons, China Synthetic Rubber Corp. and Jiangxi Black Cat Carbon Company (the largest producer in China).