CLEVELAND – The Freedonia Group has released a new study that predicts demand for chemical solvents will rise less than one percent per year to 11.8 billion pounds in 2012. Gains will continue to lag the overall economy, as manufacturers of coatings, printing inks and adhesives take strides to reduce the VOC content of their products. However, opportunities exist in a number of areas, including specialty solvents, environmentally friendly “green” solvents and conventional solvents that feature favorable toxicity and air pollution profiles.

Among conventional solvents, best opportunities are expected for the ester and alcohol product classes, driven by growth in markets such as coatings, cleaning products, and cosmetics and toiletries. Glycols will experience more subdued advances, restrained by increased antifreeze recycling efforts and demand for automotive fluids with longer lifespans. Hydrocarbon and chlorinated solvents will continue their long-term declines in demand, although the drop in consumption for both products will be less pronounced than in the past.

Green solvents have come to prominence through the replacement of conventional solvents over which environmental or toxicological concerns have been raised. All the major green solvent product classes will see more rapid gains in demand (albeit from a smaller base) than their conventional counterparts, with particularly strong growth for smaller-volume products such as hydrogen peroxide and supercritical fluids. Demand for more mature products such as propylene glycol, pine oil and soy oil will rise at a slower rate, though still far outpacing gains for the solvent market overall.

Coatings and printing inks will remain the two largest manufacturing markets for solvents. However, demand gains will be restrained as manufacturers of these products continue to move away from solvent-based formulations in order to comply with VOC-emissions regulations. More fortuitous growth prospects are expected in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and electronics, fueled by strong product demand and the use of more environmentally favorable solvents.