Published : Jun 01, 2012
The global supply of refined glycerin is driven by two main factors:
- Demand for biodiesel
- Demand for oleochemicals
Crude glycerin supply is now greatly dependent on biodiesel production, and is expected to fluctuate because of an increasingly uncertain market for biodiesel. Issues pertaining to industry subsidies, rebates, sustainability and government legislation mandating biodiesel consumption are still being discussed in many regions. The outcome of these discussions will likely affect the profitability of the biodiesel market and whether it can survive with no or minimal support from governments.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of refined glycerin:
Asia, Western Europe and the United States together accounted for three-fourths of the total world consumption of refined glycerin in 2011. Overall, refined glycerin consumption is expected to grow very strongly in the next several years, at an average annual rate of 10%.
Asia accounted for about 36% of global consumption of refined glycerin in 2011. The region was led by China, which accounted for about 18% of total global use. China will drive world consumption growth with very high growth rates resulting from the further expansion of glycerin-to-epichlorohydrin production. Growth in glycerin demand for polyether polyol production and pharmaceutical uses will also make a relatively big contribution to the glycerin consumption increase. It is expected that by 2016, China will account for 27% of the world's refined glycerin consumption.
Thailand will also experience high growth rates as a result of epichlorohydrin production. Both Indonesia and Malaysia will continue to export large amounts of refined glycerin. Japan's refined glycerin consumption growth is expected to remain flat in the next several years. Overall, Asian consumption will significantly increase to 45% of the global refined glycerin total in 2016.
Western Europe accounted for 26% of the total world refined glycerin consumption in 2011. Consumption has been mainly for applications such as personal care, food and beverages, polyether polyols, and pharmaceuticals. Strong growth of nearly 8% annually is expected for the region as a result of the use of glycerin as a raw material for novel chemical production such as syngas, propylene glycol and epichlorohydrin.
Consumption in the United Sates has recovered somewhat from the decline caused by the economic recession in 2009. Fairly strong growth of 6–8% annually is expected in the next several years. Moderate growth will occur for traditional glycerin market segments, while high growth for newer applications, such as propylene glycol production and recreational vehicle fluids, is expected.
Other regions, such as Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, will experience strong annual consumption growth of 6–7% during the next five years. In Central and Eastern Europe, increased demand in markets such as personal care and functional food will continue, along with epichlorohydrin production. In the Middle East, personal care and food account for more than one-third of the overall demand for glycerin, followed by alkyd resins because the region has a highly developed paints and coatings industry. Growth is expected in all applications.
Africa will also show strong growth of 9% annually (cosmetics and personal care products have experienced the highest demand growth in recent years).
The remaining world regions, such as Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and Oceania, will continue to represent only a minor share of the world total.
Refined glycerin is at some risk for substitution by competing products, mainly sorbitol and glycols. Substitution depends on availability and prices.