Published July 2017
This report mainly covers supply/demand for styrene-butadiene latexes (SB latex and SBR latex), which are classified based on styrene content. SB latexes contain at least 45–80% styrene, and SBR latexes contain less than 45% styrene. In industry, SB latexes are most widely used for coated/pigmented paper and paperboard coatings and carpet backcoatings and accounted for a vast majority of worldwide styrene-butadiene latex consumption in 2016. The remaining consumption is for SBR latexes, which are used mostly for molded foams and adhesives. Styrene-butadiene-vinylpyridine terpolymers, which are used almost exclusively for tire cord treatments, represent a minimal portion.
Production of SB/SBR latex in the world is highly fragmented. There are more than 50 producers globally, with two market leaders—BASF and Styron/Trinseo—together controlling about a third of the market in 2016. Because of the fragmentation and low overall growth in the market, it is reasonable to expect further rationalization of the supply structure, with more capacity rationalization (including unit closures).
World consumption of SB latex increased at 1.5% per year from 2011 to 2016. The major world consumers of SB latex in 2016 were China, Western Europe, and North America.
The largest application for SB latex is paper coatings. Carboxylated SB latex is the dominant synthetic pigment binder for coated papers. SB latex–based coating systems offer high coating speed, and enhanced pigment binding power that results in smoothness, higher gloss level, brightness, opacity, and water resistance at lower cost than the alternatives. A majority of SB latex binders are used on coated printing papers such as magazines, annual reports, label stock, advertising flyers, and catalogs. The remainder is used for coating paperboard products (commercially produced coated paperboard) such as folding cartons for food packaging uses. SB latex improves brightness uniformity as well as print performance. In addition, it optimizes glueability, stiffness, and scoring, and enhances ink and varnish performance.
SB latexes are also used in paper saturation for the production of specialty papers and board to obtain resistance to grease or petroleum, or to improve strength at high temperatures. Saturated specialty papers and board are used for book covers, gaskets, containers, masking tape, and various sandpapers.
The challenges in the coated paper industry include more conservation of trees as a fiber source, greater usage of nonpaper-based (internet) advertising and promotional brochures, growth of on-demand printing, greater use of recycled and secondary fibers, improvement in the weight-to-stiffness ratio, the cost of butadiene, and more environmentally friendly and efficient paper-making processes. All these challenges will continue to demand innovation in the coating and finishing sector.
The second major outlet for SB latex is in backcoatings for tufted carpets. Latex backcoatings hold the tufts in place, anchoring the pile fibers, providing improved stability and resistance to fraying or tuft loss at the cut edges of the carpets. The latex functions as the laminating adhesive for a secondary backing (primarily polypropylene), but it can also function as the actual backing on some carpets (so-called unitary back carpets). The styrene content in SB latexes varies depending on the physical features desired in the final product. Over 90% of carpets produced in the United States are tufted, and most of the carpet industry is concentrated in the southeastern states, primarily in Georgia. Accordingly, several SB latex plants are located in that region. In Western Europe, Belgium is the center of the carpet industry, followed by the Netherlands.
Global consumption of SB latexes is forecast to grow at about 1% per year during 2016–21.