Substances that modify and increase the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the polymerization process are known as polymerization catalysts. Polymerization catalysts include Ziegler–Natta catalyst, single-site catalyst, metallocene catalysts, and reaction initiator catalysts. These catalysts usually do not have well defined molecular structures. Metallocene catalysts help in refining and designing the structure of polymers. Metallocene catalysts offer characteristics such as improved clarity in film, high impact strength and toughness, and better melt characteristics on account of the control over molecular structure. Transition metals such as titanium and zirconium are also used as polymerization catalysts. Polymerization catalysts are usually made up of zeolites, metals (base metals and precious metals), enzymes, organometallic materials, and chemical compounds (peroxides, acids, amines, etc.) among others. Certain end-user industries such as packaging, building & construction, electrical & electronics, household goods, automobiles, and sports goods are utilizing polymerization catalysts in their manufacturing processes.
Increase in the production of polymer resins is a major factor driving the growth of the polymerization catalysts market. Extensive research and development is being carried out in order to reduce cost and improve the quality of polymerization catalysts. This is expected to act as an opportunity during the forecast period. Manufacturers are focusing on backward integration. This is anticipated to boost the supply of polymerization catalysts till 2023. However, challenges faced by the polymerization catalysts industry include volatility in prices of raw materials of precious metals and high manufacturing costs. This is projected to hamper the polymerization catalysts market during the forecast period.
The polymerization catalysts market can be segmented based on its application in the manufacturing of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polyethylene terephthalate. Polyolefin catalysts account for more than half of the total polymerization market; however, their consumption is nearly flat due to the use of high-efficiency catalysts for bulk processes. The Asia Pacific region controlled the market for polymerization catalysts, followed by North America and Europe, in 2014. Asia and the Middle East are anticipated to witness rapid growth in the polymerization catalysts market due to expansion of the refining, polymer, and chemicals industries in China and India. Increase in output of the petrochemicals market in Asia and Middle East & Africa has led to higher catalyst consumption; hence, it is likely to drive the polymerization catalysts market during the next few years.
Factors such as rising income levels, increased industrial activity, and vehicle ownership rates in emerging economies also contribute to strong growth in demand for catalysts. Plastic products are likely to continue to replace other materials in a variety of applications. This is expected to boost the consumption of Ziegler-Natta and single-site catalysts during the forecast period. North America is anticipated to witness healthy growth rate largely due to the recovery in chemical and polymer production in the next few years. In the Middle East, large natural gas and oil producers (including those in GCC) continue the efforts to diversify and expand their product portfolios by investing in the building of new petroleum refining and chemical capacity. Demand for polypropylene catalysts is expected to be significant in single-site and advanced metallocene catalysts. Demand for specified polypropylene is shifting the focus of manufacturers toward metallocene catalysts.
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Key manufacturers in the polymerization catalysts market include Univation Inc. (a joint venture between Exxon Chemical and Dow Plastics), Lyondell Basel, BASF SE, Nova Chemicals Corporation, Bayer, Johnson Matthey Inc., Kbr Inc., Clariant International Ltd., UOP LLC, Akzo Nobel NV, and W. R. Grace and Company.
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