HOUSTON - The results of the 2004 End Use Market Survey of the Polyurethanes Industry in the United States, Canada and Mexico indicate that the polyurethanes industry has been on a firm growth track during the last two years. Between 2002 and 2004, production of polyurethane products grew 10.8 percent overall due to general economic growth since the 9/11 attack, as well as returning consumer confidence and an increasing use of polyurethane materials in products that promote greater comfort in the living environment. This compares to relative flat growth experienced between 2000 and 2002.

Angela Austin of IAL Consultants, Houston, the firm that conducted the survey, commented, "During the past two years, the North American polyurethanes industry has balanced the reality of raw material shortages and deteriorating production economics with growth in a number of product areas that impact quality of life. In the United States, that growth has been stimulated by new products, such as viscoelastic foam and low-density rigid spray foams, as well as changes in consumer spending on such items as hardwood floors that require polyurethane coatings. Consumers have been purchasing larger refrigerators for their kitchens and additional units for other areas of the house, and larger vehicles, including minivans and SUVs, all of which use substantial amounts of polyurethane."

The report also showed that the top three polyurethane end-use applications remained unchanged from two years ago: construction, transportation and furniture. Foam scrap and bedding rounded out the rest of the top five applications.

The use of polyurethane in coatings, adhesives and sealants formulations has experienced growth partly because of construction market dynamics. The market for construction has remained steady for both the residential and commercial sectors in the United States, creating a higher growth market for many polyurethane products. For example, the prevalence of hardwood floors that require polyurethane coatings has contributed to that growth. Also, a general consumer push toward increased comfort in everyday life has led automotive OEMs to seek improvements in vehicle stability through the use of polyurethane elastomers as shock absorbers.

Production of polyurethane coatings totaled 712 million pounds in North America in 2004, up from 612 million pounds in 2002. Among coating types, waterborne polyurethane dispersions experienced the most demand. Adhesive and elastomer production both totaled approximately 316.5 million pounds in 2004, up from approximately 272 million pounds in 2002.

The End Use Market Survey was sponsored by the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, a business unit of the American Plastics Council. It is available for purchase online at www.polyurethane.org.