Published January 2015
Polypropylene (PP) resins are one of the fastest-growing commodity thermoplastic resins in the world, surpassed only by LLDPE.
While new applications continue to be developed for PP, it is still largely a commodity thermoplastic subject to economic fluctuations especially in the area of durable goods. Producers continue to struggle with sustaining profitability, where cost volatility often undercuts the ability to recover pricing in tightly supplied markets. Competitors have consolidated, formed joint ventures and alliances in order to secure feedstock, and pursued broader commercial positions and/or technologies to streamline and hopefully reduce the profit volatility of their businesses.
The players in the PP industry are changing as restructuring and consolidations continue; the number of producers is declining such that fewer companies now control ever-increasing capacities. Consolidation not only impacts scale and size but also influences control of and access to technology.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polypropylene resins:
In 2014, extrusion applications accounted for about 60% of the worlds polypropylene consumption. Molding applications accounted for about 34% of consumption. Injection molding was the single-largest application for polypropylene in 2014.
Transportation constitutes one of the major end-use markets for injection-molded PP. Polypropylenes very low density (0.89–0.91 gram per cubic centimeter) combined with its good mechanical properties (especially when filled or compounded) and injection-molding characteristics make it especially suitable for the large-volume cost- and weight-conscious automotive market. Numerous other types of products are injection molded from PP, including container caps and closures, appliance parts, disposable syringes and a wide variety of household and miscellaneous products.
As fiber, PP is used in carpet backing and has a strong growth market in carpet face yarn, particularly in the United States, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. Polypropylene fiber also plays an important part in the nonwovens market, an end use that continues to experience rapid growth in virtually all regions of the world.
Polypropylene film provides excellent optical clarity and low moisture-vapor transmission enabling its use in snack-food packaging, pressure-sensitive tape backing and labels. Smaller markets for PP films include a diverse group of product areas such as shrink-film overwrap, capacitor and other electronic industry films, photo and graphic arts applications, soft-goods overwrap, and disposable diaper tabs and closures.
For the past fifteen years (1999–2014) polypropylene demand has grown on average at close to 5% per year worldwide. Between 2004 and 2009, growth was below average at 3% per year (as a result of weakened automotive and construction markets), but in the last five years has increased to almost 5.5% per year.
By 2019, world consumption of PP is expected to represent an average annual growth of about 5% per year from 2014. Growth will be fastest in the Indian Subcontinent (8.5%), then China (~7%) and Africa (6%). However, more significantly, of the total growth in consumption volume expected to occur in the next five years, almost half will be attributed to China, followed by the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.