Published June 2017
Butyl rubber’s most outstanding characteristics are its low permeability to air, gases, and moisture; vibration damping; low glass transition temperature; low-modulus and low compression set; resistance to aging and weathering; wide vulcanization versatility; fast cure rates; and good adhesion to and compatibility with other rubbers. Some of butyl rubber’s disadvantages are low resilience, only fair physical strength, and limited resistance to hydrocarbon solvents. In the case of vibration damping, it is not the first choice because it is too expensive compared with natural rubber. It is good for body mounts and suspension bumpers. A major disadvantage of nonhalogenated butyl rubber is its inability to be blended and vulcanized with highly unsaturated elastomers such as styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), polybutadiene, and natural rubber; as a result, the majority of butyl rubber consumption is for halogenated products.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of butyl elastomers:
Tires, tubes, and tire products remain the major end uses for butyl elastomers and account for an estimated 80–85% of total consumption. The remainder is consumed by the production of adhesives and sealants, pharmaceutical products, automotive mechanical goods, and other end uses. This is not likely to change in the future, as the tire industries, especially in the developing regions, remain the main force for butyl elastomers demand growth.
Northeast Asia surpassed North America to become the largest butyl elastomer producing region in the world, accounting for about 32% of the total capacity in 2016. In addition, Western Europe was surpassed by the CIS and Baltic States, as the plant in France was rationalized in late 2015.
In the last five years, production (and consumption) levels increased at an average annual rate of only just over 2%, while the nameplate capacity base expanded by about 6% during the same period, supported primarily by the new production units brought onstream in China, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore. As a result, operating rates dropped below 70%, down from levels of around 85% seen a decade ago.
In the forecast period to 2021, global oversupply is expected to persist, and even worsen, as global capacity for butyl elastomers will continue to grow ahead of demand. The new plants scheduled to be brought onstream in Russia, China, India, and Singapore will result in capacity growth of about 6.0% annually, compared with only 2.6% growth expected for consumption.
China represented about 26% of total global consumption in 2016; the country exhibited growth of 7% annually during 2011–16. Exceptional growth of almost 23% annually was registered in the Indian Subcontinent during 2011–16; Southeast Asia also noted a very high rate of consumption growth at 15.5% annually during 2011–16. Meanwhile, consumption of butyl elastomers declined in most of the other, more mature markets during 2011–16, such as the United States, Western Europe, and the CIS and Baltic States.
In 2016, Northeast Asia and North America were the leading consumers of butyl rubber. By 2021, the Indian Subcontinent (led by India) will become the third-largest consuming region, surpassing Western Europe, followed by Southeast Asia. The Indian Subcontinent is forecast to have the highest growth rate at 6.0% annually during 2016–21, followed by China and Southeast Asia at 3–4% per year. Central Europe and the Middle East are also forecast to grow at 3–4% annually, but from much smaller bases.