Published July 2015
The major markets for styrene are polystyrene, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)/styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) resins, styrene-butadiene (S/B) copolymer latexes, SBR elastomers and latexes, and unsaturated polyester resins (UPR).
Polystyrene drives styrene consumption worldwide. Of the total amount of styrene consumed in 2014, nearly 37% went into general-purpose/high-impact (GP/HI) polystyrene production and 22% went into expandable polystyrene (EPS) production. Polystyrene consumption continues to come under pressure from substitutes such as polypropylene and PET from both a cost and performance perspective, and styrene consumption is forecast to stay relatively flat, growing at an average rate of 1.6% per year in 2014–19. Expandable polystyrene is doing better especially in construction where it is being increasingly used as concrete forms and insulation where higher efficiency standards are driving demand. Styrene consumption for EPS production is expected to grow at an average rate of 2.3% per year in the next five years. Styrene consumption into ABS resins and SBR is expected to see the highest annual growth rates, at 3.6% and 4.1%, respectively.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of styrene:
Excess supply and a slowdown in global demand have recently marked polystyrene (PS) markets. Mature markets (North America, Europe, and Japan) face weaker demand, capacity rationalization, and an emphasis on profitability, while developing markets (China, the Middle East, and Africa), are emphasizing capacity addition and slightly better demand than that of the Western regions.
As a region, China drives demand for styrene and has supported global demand growth in the last couple of years, while demand has declined in other major regions like Western Europe and North America. General-purpose and high-impact (GP/HIPS) polystyrene is the largest demand segment in most regions; in China and Central Europe, expandable polystyrene (EPS) has the largest market share. In Western Europe, demand into EPS is close to the GP/HIPS demand (as of 2014. Consumption of styrene into ABS resins is particularly strong in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.
Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is the second-largest styrene derivative. Styrene consumption for EPS averaged nearly 4% annual growth from 2009 to 2014, making it one of the fastest-growing styrene derivatives. However, growth for EPS is slowing, especially in China—the largest market for EPS. The average growth rate over the next five years will be only 2.3% per year. In general, demand in North America in 2014 was strong owing to increased building/construction demand. But slowdowns in demand in Asia and Europe, surplus capacity globally, higher feedstock prices, and lower producer profitability marked the global EPS market in 2014. In terms of end uses, the EPS market continues to have two speeds, because demand into packaging is not growing as fast as construction applications. Globally, the world is awash in EPS capacity. Low operating rates in China are the result of significant capacity additions combined with demand declines in 2014.
ABS, the third-largest styrene derivative, is the largest-volume engineering thermoplastic resin in the world. ABS is used in many consumer-related end-use applications including appliances, electronics/electrical, building and construction, and transportation. The ABS market is projected to grow at an average rate of 3.6% per year over the next five years. The appliance sector will continue to be the largest ABS end-use market. Global population growth, increases in discretionary spending, and replacements will continue to influence ABS sector growth during the forecast period. In 2012 and 2013, ABS capacity expansions outpaced demand.
The fastest-growing region in the world will be the Middle East and Africa, which will increase consumption at a rate of 12% per year during 2014–19. More significant, but growing at a slower pace (3.5%) is China. China will account for 33% of global demand in 2019; all other countries in Northeast Asia are expected to see low to flat styrene demand growth.
With a global demand share of 2% in 2014, Brazilian styrene consumption is expected to grow at an annual rate of 5.6% in the next five years with new derivative capacity coming onstream. Styrene consumption in Southeast Asia has slowed and will grow at an average rate of 2% per year through the forecast period.
Rising raw material prices and weakened demand for polystyrene in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan have slowed overall styrene growth in these three regions; growth will be flat over the forecast period.