Published November 2015
Polyvinyl alcohols (PVOH) are a group of products that have a similar empirical formula but different properties and applications depending upon their molecular weight and the degree of removal of the acetate groups from the polyvinyl acetate raw material. Fully hydrolyzed grades of PVOH have about 98–99% of their acetate groups hydrolyzed, intermediate grades about 97%, and partially hydrolyzed grades about 88%.
PVOH is used neat as a textile warp size, as an adhesive and an additive to adhesives, in paper manufacture primarily as a binder, and as a polymerization aid. PVOH is used as an intermediate in the manufacture of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) resin, although it is not required that the PVOH be fully refined during the processing from vinyl acetate monomer to polyvinyl butyral.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polyvinyl alcohols:
China, Japan, and the United States continue to be the largest producers and consumers of PVOH. The high production levels in Japan and the United States are supported by large exports. China produces 49% and consumes 45% of world production and consumption, respectively.
Polyvinyl butyral is the largest end use for polyvinyl alcohol in the United States and Western Europe; PVOH usage as a polymerization aid is the largest market in China, and PVOH usage for optical-grade PVOH films dominates demand in Japan. Global PVOH consumption is expected to increase at an overall rate of about 3.1% annually between 2015 and 2020.
In China, the major markets for consumption of PVOH besides use as a polymerization aid are for textile sizing agents, architectural, fibers, paper coatings, and adhesives. Demand is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4.1% from 2015 to 2020. China had a more modest average annual growth rate of 1.2% in the last five years (2010–15), but demand for polyvinyl alcohol is increasing in the country.
In Western Europe, demand growth for PVOH will depend primarily on demand for polyvinyl butyral resin, which is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for PVOH in the region. The other traditional markets are expected to recover and increase, and new applications such as ceramic binders and water-soluble and biodegradable thermoplastic polymers could result in higher growth rates than forecast. Demand is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 1.7% from 2015 to 2020.
In the United States, most of the applications for polyvinyl alcohol are mature. The fastest-growing market for PVOH is in the manufacture of polyvinyl butyral; growth for this application is forecast at 2.4% annually during 2015–20. Overall demand growth for PVOH in the United States is projected to be 1.4% per year from 2015 to 2020.
In Japan, total consumption of PVOH is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.3% from 2015 to 2020.