November 28, 2020

Global Polyolefins Elastomers Market Snapshot

Five types of thermoplastic polyolefin elastomers are commercially available.  Compounded thermoplastic olefinics (TPOs) and thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs) are made by a mixture of elastomers and plastics, while in-situ TPO, polyolefin plastomers and elastomer, and olefin block copolymers are prepared by polymerization of olefins.  In-situ TPO and polyolefin elastomers have comparatively sizable markets.

In-situ TPO

An in-situ TPO is defined as a polyolefin material containing between 20 and 35 percent ethylene as produced in the reactor; essentially all the remaining composition is propylene.  Small amounts of additional comonomers, such as octene or butene, may also be provide unique functionality.  Propylene polymers with less than 20 percent ethylene are hard and usually have poor elastomeric properties. 

In-situ TPOs can be used directly for end-use applications such as automotive parts or they can be used in compounds as a PP flexibility modifier.  Although possessing some relatively interesting properties, commercial applications for in-situ TPOs were slow to develop.  It was not until the automotive industry specified certain safety standards, such as low-speed crash performance, that the in-situ TPO volume became sizable.  FMVSS (Ford Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) came to fruition in 1981 and along with it, the need for in-situ TPOs.  For example, all vehicle door latch systems, including both the inside and outside door handles, are required by the (FMVSS 206) to withstand certain pressures or forces to keep vehicle's door look from opening during a rollover or typical accident.  In-situ TPOs are used for these automotive safety door handles and latches.

Currently, automotive applications remain as the largest outlet for in-situ TPOs, accounting for well over half of global demand.  End-uses are dominated by safety features, such as interior head impact trim, under-the-hood impact areas, and cladding.  In-situ TPOs are used in engine compartments and under-the-hood parts, such as carburettor air ducts, wiring harness sleeves, heating air ducts, conduits, hood seals, fire wall pads, and fender liner pads. 

North America and Western Europe are the largest consumers of in-situ TPO, accounting for about 66 percent of the global consumption.  Growth in developing regions is projected to average higher than the global growth rates, albeit from a small base, as a result of penetration of in-situ TPOs and increasing production of automotive parts.  Growth has been slow in Japan, where production of fabricated parts has slowly moved to lower-labour cost countries in Asia, and the automotive industry has been affected by the low-growth economic conditions in the country.  Growth in Western Europe has also been slow due to the weak economic conditions and the fabrication of automotive industry being relocated to Asian and Central and Eastern European countries. 

Polyolefin elastomers

In following NexantECA’s definition of plastomer versus elastomer discussed previously (polyolefin elastomers have densities between 0.857 and 0.895 while plastomers have a density between 0.895 and 0.915 g/cc) then a review of producer’s various product lines suggests that key markets for the polyolefin elastomers are compounded TPOs, shoe soles and solar panel encapsulant films, while plastomers are used largely as is for films and extrusion coating applications.

In TPOs, the POEs give a balance of stiffness, low temperature toughness and dimensional stability, yielding a TPO which is more ductile than TPOs with EPR or EPDM as the rubber phase.  Globally, POEs have displaced over two-thirds of the EPDM content in compounded TPOs on the basis of lower cost, easier handling (pellets instead of bales), and properties.  However, displacement is slowing as there are certain grades of TPOs which require higher-performing EPDM as the elastomer phase in order to achieve certain properties. 

North America is the largest single market for POEs, followed by China and Western Europe.  China has a large demand for POE due to the presence of a large automotive industry.  Growth is expected in the Middle East due to the rapidly growing infrastructure.  There is an increasing awareness for enhanced packaging, and co-extrusion capacities are developed for both internal consumption and export.

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Market Insights: Polyolefin Elastomers - 2020

This report provides analysis and forecast to 2035 of supply and demand of the global polyolefin elastomers market and includes polyolefin elastomers and In-situ thermoplastic olefinics (In-situ TPOs). 

  • Polyolefin elastomers demand is segmented by polymer medication, footwear, wire and cables, and ‘others’.
  • In-situ thermoplastic olefinics (In-situ TPOs) demand is segmented by automotive, building and construction and others.

Market Insights: Polyolefin Elastomers - 2020 includes discussion regarding key market drivers and constraints, as well as supply, demand and trade analysis for nine regions: North America, South America, Western Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, and China.  Analysis also includes the competitive landscape, capacity listing and cost competitiveness along with a snapshot of latest pricing trends by region and price forecasts to 2035.

The Author

Anna Ibbotson. Vice President



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