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Polyurethane consumption dips slightly.

The North American polyurethane industry experienced a decline of approximately 1.37% between 2000 and 2002, according to a new survey by the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry. The API said growth was highest in Canada, where consumption of polyurethane materials increased 4.3%, from 558 million pounds in 2000 to 582 million pounds in 2002.

The survey indicates that the North American polyurethanes industry volume for 2002 was 6,393 million pounds. In the U.S., volume was 5,528 million pounds, down from 5,641 million pounds in 2000. Volume in Mexico was 282.7 million pounds, essentially unchanged from 2000.

"The survey revealed that the slight attrition expected in the U.S. was offset by moderate growth in Canada and Mexico," said Joanne Ulnick of Ducker Research, the marketing firm that conducted the survey. "Overall, the North American polyurethanes industry stood firm over the past two years of economic volatility."

The 6,393 million pounds for North America is approximately double the number of pounds consumed in 1989, when usage was first tracked.

"The results of the 2002 survey are not a great surprise," said Dick Mericle, API executive director. "Through continued innovation, technical discoveries and quality, the polyurethanes industry is weathering the current economic storm. And there has been some promising growth since 2000 in certain end-use applications."

The report also showed that the top five polyurethane end-use applications remained unchanged from two years ago--construction, transportation, furniture, carpet cushion and appliances.

The two largest applications, construction and transportation, showed slight decreases in the amount of polyurethane used in the U.S. compared to 2000. Construction demand decreased 0.68% (1,469 to 1,459 million pounds) and transportation demand decreased 0.15% (1,328 to 1,326 million pounds) from 2000 to 2002. This followed growth of 6.5% and 10.9%, respectively, from 1998 to 2000.

Flexible polyurethane foams accounted for 41% of total polyurethane demand; rigid polyurethane foams represented 25%; coatings represented 9.6%; and adhesives represented 4.3%. These numbers are nearly identical to the numbers reported in 2000.

"Certain applications and product types did experience moderate growth," said Mericle. "For example, flexible molded foam demand increased 3.4% in North America from 2000 to 2002. Also, demand for polyurethane elastomers increased 5.3% in North America during the same time."

The biennial survey addresses the current state of the entire industry, and was the result of more than 900 interviews conducted throughout North America. End-users, formulators and producers all participated in the survey.


Construction is the major end-use market for rigid polyurethane loam, accounting for 57% of rigid foam demand in the U.S. Roofing and wall insulation are the primary uses lot spray polyurethane foam and polyisocyanurate board in construction. The survey calculated a 1.3% compounded annual growth rate from 1996 to 2002 for rigid foam in construction.

Construction applications also represent 31% of the demand for polyurethane coatings in the U.S. Coatings for wood flooring account for a major portion of demand, as the trend toward hard surfaces continues to gain momentum. Demand for polyurethane coatings in construction applications increased 2% between 2000 and 2002 in the U.S.


Transportation applications account for 18% of the demand for flexible slabstock foam in the U.S. Automotive end-uses include floor cushion, headliners and HVAC components. Of all flexible molded foam consumed in the U.S., 86% is used by the transportation industry. The most prominent automotive application for flexible molded foam is seating systems. The survey calculated a 3% compounded annual growth rate for flexible molded foam in transportation since 1996, attributed primarily to increased seat size and volume.

Transportation accounts for 30% of polyurethane coatings demand in the U.S. Refinish paint for automotive and truck applications is the major use of polyurethane coatings in this area.


Polyurethane demand in 2002 for furniture applications was 505 million pounds. That represents a slight decrease from the 544 million pounds reported in 2000. Residential furniture represents the largest end-use for flexible slabstock foam in furniture applications, 95% of all flexible slabstock foam used in the furnishings industry. Commercial furniture uses 90% of the furniture industry's flexible molded foam demand; however, only 7% of the total U.S. demand for flexible molded foam is used in furniture.

In this area, volume growth closely correlates with furniture unit sales. The survey calculated a 7% decline in volume since 2000.

CASE (coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers)

Solvent-based coatings continue to make up the majority of U.S. demand for polyurethane coatings. There was 282.4 million pounds, approximately 52% of all U.S. demand for polyurethane coatings, used in solvent-based coatings. Other coating types contributing to polyurethane demand include water-based, urethane alkyds, powder and moisture cured.

Demand for polyurethane elastomers increased in all three countries included in the survey. Approximately 20% of polyurethane elastomers demand in the U.S. comes from the construction industry, where thermal breaks is are common application. Shoe soles are the primary footwear application for polyurethane elastomers. In footwear, the survey calculated a 4.9% compounded annual growth rate since 1996.

Construction continues to be the largest user of polyurethane adhesives in the U.S., responsible for 34% of adhesives volume. Structural applications dominate demand in this area. The amount of polyurethane adhesives used by the construction industry increased 4% since 2000. In packaging, film-to-film laminates are a common application for polyurethane adhesives. The survey calculated a 7% increase in adhesive demand for packaging from 2000 to 2002.
North American market growth of PUR products

 U.S. Canada Mexico

1996 5,071
1998 5,824
2000 6,482
2002 6,393

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Source: Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry

U.S. PUR demand by major end-use
2002 vs. 2000

 2000 2002

Construction 1,469 1,459
Transportation 1,328 1,326
Furniture 544 505
Carpet cushion 466 436
Appliance 283 278
Packaging 243 255
Bedding 239 230
Textiles and fibers 199 184

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Source: Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry

U.S. PUR demand by product type 2002 vs. 2000

 Million pounds

 2000 2002

Flexible slabstock 1,757 1,686
Flexible molded 536 546
Rigid foams 1,458 1,397
Coatings 542 543
Binders 384 390
Elastomers 221 227
Adhesives 227 237
Sealants 159 162
RIM 168 169
TPU 107 99
Spandex 82 72

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Source: Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry
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Title Annotation:Market Focus
Publication:Rubber World
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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