Global Chemistry Industry
The chemical industry is made up of two main categories: basic chemicals and chemicals used in synthesis. Chemicals can be divided into various sub-classes, including bulk chemicals, which are used to produce other chemical products and manufactured goods; raw materials, which consist of base materials for the production of gas and oil; basic chemicals (resins and plastics), which are used in industrial processes; and feedstock, which is made from primary raw materials and used in processing plants.
Given the potential health and environmental hazards involved in the emission of chemicals into the atmosphere, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has identified branches of the chemical industry with the most pressing need for Emission Scenario Documents (ESDs). The purpose of ESDs is to detail the production of chemicals from source to final use to measure the amount of waste generated by each chemical, and thereby quantify the risk involved. Current industry priorities include base pharmaceuticals, plastics, synthetic rubber, petrochemicals and perfumes.
Chemicals are used across a range of industries and products - such as printing ink, pesticides and paint - and exist in different formats, adaptable for specific uses. Primary chemicals refer to commodities and bulk chemicals (chemical products and base intermediates), which involve huge output at low prices. Secondary chemicals involve low output at higher prices and can be divided into fine chemicals and specialty chemicals. Fine chemicals involve relatively low output with higher prices and are employed as intermediates (chemical compounds used in the manufacture of final products) to produce chemical products such as detergents and pharmaceuticals.
Specialty chemicals are designed to perform a specific purpose using basic chemicals, with lower output at high prices. Sealants, plastic additives and adhesives fall under this category. Industrial chemicals, sometimes included in the bulk chemicals category, are used in chemical processing; examples include dyes and photographic chemicals. Petrochemicals are chemical compounds manufactured from petroleum. Other chemical categories include consumer care products such as perfumes and detergents, and life science products used to in biotechnology and to produce crops, for example pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
The specialty chemicals market in the US is worth almost $185 billion, according to MarketLine, with additives, dyes, advanced polymers and adhesives falling into the category. The leading segment of the market, comprised mainly of coatings and paints, is worth almost $51 billion, or almost 28% of the overall specialty chemicals market. Market growth is expected to slow, with a forecast worth of under $230 billion by the close of 2015.
The global chemical industry declined during the financial crisis but is expected to see demand rise as the economy recovers. Growth will also be driven by cost-cutting initiatives. As around one-tenth of demand in the chemical market comes from the automotive industry and another tenth from housing, recovery in the overall industry depends in part on how well these sectors perform financially.
To satisfy growing demand for less environmentally harmful energy solutions and a more dedicated approach to minimizing industrial waste, green chemistry continues to grow, with an expected worth of $100 billion in 2020, according to Pike Research. Similarly, the renewable chemicals market could reach a value of more than $76 billion in 2015, according to research from Markets and Markets, representing annual growth of almost 13% in the five-year period ending 2015.
Leading Industry Associations
- International Council of Chemical Associations
- Chemical Distributor Trade Associations
- American Chemical Society
- European Chemical Industry Council
- European Association of Chemical Distributors
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