Published September 2014
In most markets, hydrogen peroxide functions as a bleach or oxidizer. As such, it often competes with other chemicals capable of performing similarly. Some derivatives (e.g., perborates) also function as bleaching or oxidizing agents. Regional cost differences, consumer preferences and technical differences in product performance enter into the decision to use hydrogen peroxide or one of its derivatives rather than another product. Since these considerations vary by region, the consumption patterns vary in different parts of the world.
The hydrogen peroxide market is dominated by the pulp and paper industry, with the main uses being in pulp bleaching and deinking of recycled paper. Growth of the pulp industry has been particularly strong in Southeast Asia and Central and South America. Both regions have the competitive advantage of fast-growing eucalyptus as pulp raw material, and accordingly, investment in new pulp mills is made primarily in these regions. Southeast Asian producers have an additional advantage-their proximity to growing markets.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of hydrogen peroxide:
During 2014-2019, the hydrogen peroxide market is expected to undergo significant change. Pulp and paper is not expected to continue to be the growth engine for hydrogen peroxide consumption. The change from print to digital media has been occurring for some years, and it had been expected that this trend would result in decreasing paper consumption. Yet, since 2009, increasing paper consumption in the developing parts of the world and increasing demand for hygiene paper, tissues and packaging have outbalanced the shrinking use in newsprint in the developed world. In the current forecast period, the continued switch to digital media and shrinking paper consumption is expected to result in stagnation of this hydrogen peroxide market segment.
By 2019, downstream chemical uses are expected to make up the largest part of hydrogen peroxide consumption globally. The single most important use of hydrogen peroxide in this segment is the production of propylene oxide via the HPPO process. The first HPPO plant was started in 2008 by SKC/Evonik in the Republic of Korea. In the meantime, other plants using the same technology were started in Europe and other Asian countries, and are running with high capacity utilization rates as they provide a competitive production route to propylene oxide. Additional HPPO plants are either under construction or are scheduled for construction in Asia, the Middle East and the CIS. No plant has been announced yet for North America; however, cheap energy costs would allow highly competitive production of hydrogen peroxide, which coupled with availability of propylene feedstock, makes it likely that an HPPO plant could also be built in the coming years.
Sodium percarbonate was a promising new product a few years ago, and was expected to be a growing outlet for hydrogen peroxide. The product mainly replaces perborate as a bleaching agent in detergents. Growth in the last five years has not met expectations. The massive replacement by more convenient liquid detergent formulations has led to a shrinking powder detergent market, and it is not expected that this trend can be reversed in the forecast period.
Consumption of hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizing agent in the environmental segment has grown significantly in the last five years. Hydrogen peroxide has the reputation of being an environmentally friendly and efficient product. As environmental awareness is increasing globally and legislative requirements are becoming more stringent, this market is expected to remain important in the forecast period and result in increasing consumption of hydrogen peroxide.
Specialty grades of hydrogen peroxide are being used in food, cosmetics and the electronics industry, and have been growing in line with growth in the respective areas. For the forecast period it is expected that increases in world population, average wealth and disposable incomes will continue to result in growth for hydrogen peroxide in the respective sectors.
Consumption of hydrogen peroxide has increased substantially over the past few years, following a massive decline during the economic crisis in 2009. Global consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.8%