Foam blowing agents are essential ingredients that are added to substrates to impart the characteristic cellular matrix structure of foam to the material. The advantages of foaming of a polymeric material include less material usage, thermal and acoustic insulation, and reduction of weight of the final product. Major foam blowing agents include hydrocarbons such as n-pentane, cyclopentane, isopentane, n-butane and isobutene; Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) including HFC-134fa, HFC-32, HFC-365mfc, HFC-227ea; Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) such as HCFC-22, HCFC-141a and HCFC-141b; azodicarbonamide, hydrazine, CO2, water and inert gases. Major applications of these foam blowing agents include polyurethane (PU) foams, polystyrene (PS) foams, polyolefin foams and others including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foams, and phenolic, foams etc.
The global foam blowing agents market is anticipated to be driven by rising demand from the end-user applications of foams in the construction industry. Increasing demand for foam blowing agents for the manufacture of PU foams is expected to further fuel the market for foam blowing agents. However, volatility in prices of feedstock for petroleum-based foam blowing agents, and regulations against chemicals that harm the environment are likely to hamper market growth in the next few years. Development of new eco-friendly foam blowing agents such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFO) is anticipated to provide market growth opportunities in the near future.
The foam blowing agents market can be segregated based on the type of products into hydrocarbons (HC), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) and others (including azodicarbonamide, hydrazine, CO2, water, etc.). Hydrocarbon (HC) foam blowing agents is expected to be the largest as well as the fastest growing segment during the forecast period. HFCs emerged as another key segment in 2013, due to high demand as a substitute to HCFCs in developed countries across the world. HCFCs are being phased-out due to their ozone depleting and global warming potential. These are being substituted mostly by hydrocarbons in developing countries and HFCs in developed nations.
PU foams led the application market and accounted for more than 50% share of the global market in 2013. PU applications are projected to expand at the fastest pace from 2014 to 2020, owing to high demand from insulation applications in the construction industry. PS foams are another rapidly growing application, with major demand from the automotive and construction industries. Other applications include polyolefin foams, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foams and phenolic foams.
Asia Pacific continued its dominance in the foam blowing agents market, accounting for more than half of the global market share in terms of volume in 2013. Apart from being the largest market, Asia Pacific is also estimated to be the fastest growing market for foam blowing agents in the next few years. Major demand is anticipated to originate from PU foam applications in the automotive and construction industries in the region. Furthermore, consumer goods such as footwear and furniture also contribute to the demand for foam blowing agents in Asia Pacific. The mature market of Europe is anticipated to witness an average growth rate in the next six years. In terms of volume, Asia Pacific was followed by North America and accounted for 24% of the global foam blowing agents market in 2013.
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The global foam blowing agents market is consolidated and dominated by a few players with global operations. Key players include Exxon Mobil Corporation, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Solvay S.A., Arkema S.A., Honeywell International Inc. Daikin Industries Ltd., Haltermann GmBH, ZEON Corporation, AkzoNobel N.V. and Sinochem Group