Published August 2014
Polyisoprene elastomers (IR) are synthetic, predominantly stereoregular polymers that closely resemble natural rubber in molecular structure as well as in properties.
Polyisoprene elastomers are currently being used in a variety of end-use applications requiring good resilience, low water swell, high gum tensile strength, good tack and high hot tensile strength. The largest end use for polyisoprene by far is in tires. Black-loaded polyisoprene finds uses in tires, motor mounts, pipe gaskets, shock absorber bushings and many other molded and mechanical goods. Gum polyisoprene compounds are used in rubber bands, cut thread, baby bottle nipples and extruded hoses, and other such items. Mineral-filled polyisoprene finds applications in footwear, sponges and sporting goods. Other important uses include medical applications and adhesives and sealants. Of all the applications, medical applications have seen the fastest growth.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polyisoprene elastomers:
In 2013, world demand for polyisoprene elastomers had grown at an average annual rate of 4% from the level in 2010. Roughly three-fourths of world consumption was for use in tires. The global polyisoprene elastomer utilization rate was on the low side in 2013, at about 63%. This was mainly a result of the low utilization rate in China. China began production of polyisoprene elastomers in 2010 and capacity has increased at a rapid average annual rate of 94% in the last four years. The sluggish polyisoprene elastomer market in 2013, supplanted by lower-priced natural rubber and large domestic stockpiles of natural rubber, had a negative effect on Chinese supply/demand for polyisoprene elastomers.
The largest region for polyisoprene elastomer consumption in 2013 was Central and Eastern Europe (mainly Russia), representing close to 40% of total world consumption. China (with the highest average annual consumption growth rate) has increased its polyisoprene consumption from negligible amounts in 1998 and in 2013 accounted for 12% of total global consumption. The Central and Eastern European region will continue to be the largest consumer of polyisoprene in the forecast period from 2013 to 2018.
The largest producer and exporter of polyisoprene elastomers continues to be Russia. In 2013, Russia exported close to two-thirds of its total production. Western Europe and China remain the largest importers of polyisoprene elastomer material. Future imports to China should decrease because China is expected to increase production in the forecast period.
World polyisoprene elastomer consumption is expected to grow at an average rate of just over 3% per year to 2018, primarily as a result of growth in China and Russia. Future growth for polyisoprene elastomer consumption is highly dependent on overall production of tires and loadings of polyisoprene elastomer in tires, as well as the price and supply/demand relationship of natural rubber.