Styrene, also known by the names of “phenylethene”, “vinyl benzene” or “ethenylbenzene”, is a colorless oily organic compound and a derivative of benzene. Styrene evaporates easily and serves as a precursor to polystyrene and several other copolymers. It occurs naturally in small quantities in different foods and plants and is also found in coal tar. Various types of styrene products such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), and polystyrene (PS) are used for a wide range of applications including automotive, construction, packaging and consumer goods among others. The market for styrene is highly diversified which includes various types of derivatives, each having a wide range of applications across various sectors of the market. Owing to this, large number of manufacturers present in the styrene market engages in the production of different styrene-based products for various applications.
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The global demand for styrene has been witnessing high growth on account of the emerging packaging and construction industry which has led to increasing demand for infrastructure facilities and consumer goods, especially in emerging regions such as Asia Pacific. The overall global production of styrene has been relocating to emerging economies, while developed industrialized regions such as Western Europe and the U.S. have considerably reduced their production capacities over the past few years. This trend occurred on account of the previous excessive increase in production at a time when the global demand for styrene rose at less dynamic rates or even declined during the global recession in 2008 – 09. Recent jump in benzene prices have led to various styrene manufacturers increasing the cost of their styrene products. Moreover, the collision of seasonally strong demand and low inventories with reduced styrene supply from propylene oxide/styrene monomer (POSM) facilities has further propelled styrene prices.
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Growth in the end-user application industries such as automotive and construction is anticipated to be one of the key factors driving the global styrene market. Automotive industry has been the major end user of styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) particularly used in tire manufacturing applications. However, increasing health and environmental concerns due to usage of styrene and acceptance of other resins as substitute to unsaturated polyester resin (UPR) are expected to the hamper the growth of the market. Styrene when exposed to the atmosphere can be hazardous causing irritation to skin, eyes, respiratory system and nervous system. It emits toxic vapors and produces carbon monoxide on decomposition. Various manufacturers are planning to produce styrenic polymers in the near future with the expansion of their production facilities and increase in output.
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These factors are expected to provide new opportunities for the growth of the market. Asia Pacific was the largest consumer for styrene, followed by Europe. Future market growth is expected to be from Asia Pacific on account of growth in wind energy applications of UPR and increased SBR demand due to increasing tire labeling regulations.
Alpek SAB DE CV, Ashland Inc., Bayer Materialscience, Ineos Group AG, Nova Chemicals Corporation, Royal DSM, Styron LIC, Styrolution Group GmbH, and The Dow Chemical Company are some of the key manufacturers in this industry segment.
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