Published December 2015
In most regions of the world, the largest market for maleic anhydride is unsaturated polyester resins. Demand for unsaturated polyester resins is influenced by the health of the construction industry and overall state of the economy.
In recent years, demand for maleic anhydride has been growing at modest rates in North America and Europe, but more vigorously in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In China, growth has slowed after years of strong increases. The largest market for maleic anhydride is unsaturated polyester resins, which accounts for 60% of the total production of maleic anhydride.
The following pie chart shows the world consumption of maleic anhydride:
Unsaturated polyester resin production will continue to have the largest market share and will drive refined maleic anhydride consumption on a global scale. The developing regions will experience the highest growth in maleic anhydride for unsaturated polyester resin production because a considerable amount of unsaturated polyester resin goes into infrastructure. Overall economic health will affect the unsaturated polyester resin market because it is tied to the construction, automotive, and marine industries.
Global producers of maleic anhydride are numerous, and even the largest producer, Huntsman, accounts for only a little more than 7% of the world market. However, the company has the largest share of the combined United States and Western European market, with about 35% of the total. There are many producers in China, most with relatively small capacities.
Overall, maleic anhydride is expected to grow by modest rates in most of the world. Several new markets show some potential for above-average growth, but from small bases:
- Use of more environmentally friendly materials. Maleic anhydride compatibilizers can be used to modify polyolefins like polypropylene or polyethylene to improve adhesion and dispersion to natural fibers for better strength for construction or automotive applications.
- Use with biofeedstock-based polymers. Maleic anhydride can be used with polylactic acid or other biofeedstock-based polymers to improve properties for use in agriculture, automotive, or packaging applications.
- Increase rates of recycling. Maleic anhydride is used to make compatibilizers that facilitate the mixing of dissimilar materials, including plastics.