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Plastics and rubber with excellent global growth perspectives

The shale-gas revolution is a new game changer

Europa is trying to reduce its CO2 footprint. Due to this change of course, fossil fuels are now on the decrease. This, in turn, has triggered the ongoing decline of oil refineries and the corresponding reduction of available raw material for the production of polyolefin, the most important polymer type in terms of volume. At the same time, the Gulf States have set up substantial polymer production capacities virtually on top of their oil wells, which are intended to supply Asia and the US. While Europe, already incapable of supplying the required polyolefin from its own resources, is dependent on imports, the shale-gas revolution in the US has now opened up a new source of fuel at prices that are second to none. This development is a veritable game changer. As a result of the investments made over the last few years, new capacities for gas-based polyolefin are predicted to come on-stream in 2017. At present, the US is installing capacities for the extraction of shale gas, which is used for the production of the required copolymers and for the polymerisation of target polymers. Another important aspect is the expansion of infrastructure for transport, storage and shipping of starter products and processible plastic pellets. The keen price/performance ratio of the new US products is expected to tip the scale for polyolefin exports between continents in favour of the US.

Global plastics sales: light and darkness

Not everywhere in the world shows steady and rising figures for plastic materials and products like the euro region. The small but exquisite Swiss plastics industry is still reeling from recent developments following the suddenly unpegging of the Swiss franc, which sent the local currency soaring. Particularly Swiss machine manufacturers and plastics processors were hit hard - and virtually overnight.

Outside of Europe, business was slower than expected, particularly in the BRIC states. China had to revise down its growth figures, while India is fighting against an ever-increasing pressure from imports. Russia's industry is struggling with the volatile rouble, sanctions, renewed political insecurities and shrinking profits in the energy segment. Brazil and some of its neighbouring states are also suffering from the declining oil price, the export of oil being a major contributor to their national budgets, and have been sliding into economic crisis. In Latin America, plastics producers and many plastics processors have now taken to postponing their investments until things pick up again - when that will be, is highly uncertain. In the meantime, capital goods manufacturers are pinning their hopes on the emerging Asian markets, a strengthened US and Iran's newly opened markets.

Read more: Polymer industry 98