Published November 2014
The largest markets for PVAc and copolymers are adhesives (40–45% of the total) and coatings (35–40%), followed by textiles, paper, and construction. Roughly 50% of polyvinyl acetates are consumed as homopolymers, with the rest consumed as copolymers containing monomers such as n-butyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene and versatate esters. The report excludes production of vinyl acetate polymers where the vinyl acetate content is less than 50%—chiefly in ethylene-vinyl acetate resins (EVAs), which are used in injection molding, adhesive and film applications, and are covered in the CEH Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) Resins and Vinyl Acetate reports.
Polyvinyl acetate and its commercially important copolymers are thermoplastic in nature. An unplasticized vinyl acetate homopolymer film of medium molecular weight is clear, hard and brittle at room temperature. Comonomers usually impart a plasticizing effect, where the softening temperature and the mechanical properties of the resin are altered considerably. Predominant comonomers include n-butyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene. Vinyl versatate is a widely used PVAc comonomer in Europe for coating masonry and concrete because it imparts very good hydrolysis, UV light and water resistance to the formulation.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polyvinyl acetate:
In the United States, overall polyvinyl acetate consumption will follow general economic growth and increase at an average annual rate of almost 3% during 2013–2018. PVAc-based adhesives (primarily homopolymers and vinyl acetate–ethylene copolymers [VAE]) for use in packaging and construction will provide the strongest growth opportunities. In coatings, use of VAE emulsions will continue to grow as the industry continues to switch to lower volatile organic compound– (VOC-) containing formulations. Other PVAc copolymers that are widely used in the coatings market, the so-called vinyl acrylics (containing 85% VAM and 15% n-butyl acrylate), have lost market share to higher-performing all-acrylic emulsions.
Western European consumption of polyvinyl acetate and its copolymers is forecast to grow at about 3% per year during the next five years as the economy recovers. PVAc homopolymers and VAE polymers are still the dominant products used, but redispersible VAE powders will be showing the most growth. Adhesive and coatings applications currently dominate PVAc consumption. The most important issue facing Western European producers of PVAc and copolymers is sourcing of vinyl acetate (VAM), the main raw material. A considerable amount of VAM capacity has recently been closed in the region, which now must import almost 60% of its requirements. Prices for VAM rose significantly in the first half of 2014 as a result of supply shortages.
In 2013, PVAc homopolymer production in China accounted for over 70% of all PVAc. The PVAc copolymers produced in China are largely VAE and vinyl acetate/acrylic ester copolymers. PVAc is used for adhesives, coatings, construction and other uses in China. Consumption is expected to increase at more than 5% per year through 2018.
Japanese demand for polyvinyl acetate emulsions and resins is forecast to grow at 1% per year during the next five years. Adhesives continue to be the dominant end-use market, with most adhesives based on PVAc homopolymer emulsions.