Published December 2015
Polybutadiene elastomers (PBR) are the second-largest-volume synthetic rubber produced, behind styrene-butadiene elastomer (SBR). Vulcanized PBR exhibits high resilience (the ability to recover size and shape after stress), abrasion resistance and resistance to cut growth (growth in the size of an initial cut in the cured rubber), making it an ideal elastomer for the manufacture of tires, PBR's largest market. Use as an impact modifier for ABS and high-impact polystyrene is the next-largest market. PBR is incorporated with other materials to make various automotive parts (hoses and belts), industrial products (conveyor belts), and a few consumer products (for example, golf ball centers).
Overall, tires and tire products remain the most important end use for polybutadiene elastomers and are estimated to account, on average, for about 75% of total consumption in 2015, with regional shares ranging between about 70% and 85%. Also on average, about 15% of the global supply is used as impact modifiers in plastic manufacturing, while the remaining 10% is consumed in the production of automotive goods and industrial products. This is not likely to change much in the future as the tire industry, especially in developing regions, will continue to be the main driver behind the growing demand for polybutadiene elastomers.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polybutadiene elastomers:
Among the key findings and implications for the polybutadiene elastomer market are the following:
- The current world market is more than amply supplied (based on world totals).
- The rising prosperity in developing countries is leading to higher mobility, which ultimately increases the production of tires and therefore the consumption of rubber in general.
- There is a growing need for and importance of neodymium-catalyzed polybutadiene rubber for the manufacturing of premium tires ("green tires"), which are characterized by better energy efficiency, increased safety, and higher durability.
- The European tire-labeling legislation, which was implemented in 2012, continues to impact the consumption of polybutadiene rubber as well as the implementation of tire-labeling legislations in other countries such as China, India, and Russia.
Looking ahead to 2020, it is not surprising that the highest average annual growth rates are projected to be seen in Asia, especially Southeast Asia (6.3%), China (5.7%), the Indian Subcontinent (5.4%), and South Korea (3.2%). Limited but positive demand growth is expected to be seen in some of the developed regions such as the CIS and Baltic States (1.2%), Western Europe (1.1%), Japan (0.6%), and Canada (0.5%).