Green Products/Applications / Columns

MARKET TRENDS: Slow Growth, New Opportunities

U.S. solvents demand to reach 11.8 billion pounds in 2012.


Demand for chemical solvents will rise less than 1% 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. These and other trends are presented in Solvents, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

Among conventional solvents, the 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 life spans. 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 increased 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 they still far outpace gains for the solvent market overall.

Demand for solvents in transportation uses, the largest of the nonmanufacturing markets, will be limited by slowing growth in the number of motor vehicles on the road through 2012. 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.

For more information, contact Corinne Gangloff, The Freedonia Group Inc., 767 Beta Drive, Cleveland, OH 44143-2326; phone (440) 684-9600; fax (440) 646-0484; e-mail; or visit


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