New report tracks trends in European polyethylene market
AMI Consulting has released its latest review of polyethylene (PE) markets in Europe, which builds on the knowledge acquired from previous editions that date back to 1989. The study assesses eight processing technologies and over 50 end-use applications on a country-by-country basis.
The report noted that PE consumption in Europe has surpassed pre-recession levels with industrial packaging applications reaping the rewards from improved manufacturing productivity and applications that serve the construction industry also growing well. However, it underlined the new challenge of circular economy facing the industry. The circular economy has already started to reshape the polymer supply industry with resin suppliers engaging in downstream integration with recycling technologies. EU policy has recently promoted the use of increased volumes of recycled material in products where possible and has targeted packaging applications as a focal point for enhanced recyclability. This has driven a rapid rise in consumption of reclaimed/reprocessed PE, innovations in product design and end-of-life treatment options, AMI informed.
Fortunes of metallocene resins brightest
Film extrusion has long seen the largest consumption of PE in Europe, accounting for over 50% of demand in 2017. There are big differences even amongst the LLDPE varieties, which, on the whole, have been and will continue to advance rapidly, according to the report. “The fortunes of metallocene resins will be especially bright while more well-established varieties such as C8 will experience more limited growth. Coextrusion technology will continue to drive the use of sophisticated resins while locality and commercial relations are also key in resin selection and can result in processors engineering surprisingly different formulations to meet product specifications,” it added.
Further developments in material selection are reported to be occurring in blow moulding applications, where bimodal HDPE resins that offer enhanced properties are seeing increased use in containers in the small- to mid-size bracket. However, recycled PE is the standout material within blow moulding with this market expected to champion the uptake of reprocessed PE in the mid-term to 2022.
Prospects in construction
Packaging markets are anticipated to become increasingly scrutinised which, combined with ongoing downgauging, is projected to constrain the overall volume growth of PE. The most optimistic segment of the polyethylene industry is that which serves the construction sector. “Pipe, cable and wire extrusion will prosper in the wake of improved construction output (both residential and infrastructure orientated) with HDPE and EVA to enjoy the most notable in these segments thanks to the replacement of PVC, copper and iron pipes and the increasing requirement for fire retardant compounds,” the report noted.
The lack of capacity expansion in Europe is not likely to have an impact on resin availability due to the tsunami of additional supply on the horizon in North America, AMI noted. Metallocene resins from Japan and Korea are expanding their share of the market and polyethylene derived from renewable feedstocks are being pioneered from Brazil, it added.
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