CLEVELAND - U.S. demand for flame retardants is expected to reverse its decline and is forecast to expand 2.7 percent per annum to 950 million pounds in 2013, valued at $900 million. Flame retardant advances will reflect renewed vigor in key markets such as insulated wire and cable, and construction. Other stimulants include more stringent fire codes and flammability requirements. Price increases will moderate significantly due to more normal energy and raw material costs. These and other trends are presented in Flame Retardants, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
The industry will continue too be impacted by trends away from halogenated flame retardants due to health and environmental concerns. Alumina trihydrate will continue to be the most widely used flame retardant type, accounting for 43 percent of total demand in 2013, due to its low cost, excellent performance and widespread applications. Best growth is expected for phosphorus-based flame retardants, which are projected to increase 3.7 percent yearly to 168 million pounds. Growth will be driven by non-halogenated phosphorus grades, which have a more benign environmental footprint than heavily regulated brominated compounds, the slowest-growing flame retardant type. Demand for chlorinated compounds will decrease through 2013 due to their adverse health and environmental impacts.
Construction products accounted for one-third of total flame retardant demand and will grow at an average pace to 313 million pounds in 2013, driven by insulation and cushioning opportunities for flame retardants used in foamed polyurethane and polystyrene. Insulated wire and cable will exhibit the fastest growth in light of rapidly rebounding wire and cable production. Motor vehicle markets will be buoyed by recovering production levels, elevated temperatures in under-the-hood applications and increased use of lighter-weight plastic materials, which offer improved fuel efficiency. Flame retardants used in electrical and electronic products will grow at a slow 1.7 percent annual rate to 158 million pounds in 2013 due to the continued exodus of electronics production to offshore countries with lower labor costs and governmental incentives, particularly Asia. Textile markets for flame retardants will also exhibit slow growth due to the cost advantages of offshore producers. Smaller aircraft and aerospace markets will be stimulated by stricter flame retardance standards, the aging of the commercial aircraft fleet and growing military aircraft procurement levels.
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