Published November 2015
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.
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 driver of butyl elastomers demand growth.
North America remains the largest butyl elastomer producing region in the world, accounting for about 29% of the total capacity in 2015, followed very closely by Northeast Asia, which is expected to climb to the top by 2016. In addition, Western Europe, currently ranking third, will likely be surpassed by the CIS and Baltic States, as capacities in France are scheduled to be rationalized and there are expansion plans for the units in Russia.
In the last five years, production (and consumption) levels increased at an average annual rate of almost 5%, while the nameplate capacity base expanded by about 6.5% during the same period, supported primarily by the new production units brought onstream in China. As a result, operating rates dropped from levels of around 85% seen a decade ago.
In the forecast period to 2020, global oversupply is expected to persist, and even worsen, as nameplate capacities for butyl elastomers will continue to grow ahead of demand. The new capacities planned to be brought onstream in China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore will likely result in growth rates of about 6.0%, compared with only 3.4% growth expected for consumption of butyl elastomers.