Carbon Fiber 2012: Supply and demand forecast

CompositesWorld's Carbon Fiber 2012, held Dec. 4-6 in La Jolla, Calif., USA, kicked off with the annual outlook of carbon fiber supply and demand for the next 10 years. Look for continued strength in wind and aerospace, and growth in automotive.

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CompositesWorld, publisher of High-Performance Composites and Composites Technology magazines, as well as the CompositesWorld Weekly newsletter, hosted is annual Carbon Fiber conference in La Jolla, Calif., USA Dec. 4-6. Included was the annual forecast of carbon fiber supply and demand.

Chris Red, principal, Composites Forecasts & Consulting LLC (Gilbert, Ariz., USA), provided his usual data on carbon fiber supply, as well as how much each major end market is expected to consume over the next 10 years. Red reviewed carbon fiber use in commercial, military, rotocraft and general aviation aerospace markets; wind energy applications; automotive applications; pressure vessels; medical applications; sporting good; and more. 

In the commercial aircraft structures segment, Red said, composites accounted for 9.4 million lb. Of that, about 85 percent is carbon fiber composites; 30 percent of that is manufactured via automation. By 2020, he said, that number is expected to climb to 83 percent. Aircraft production (all types) is expected to climb steadily from about 9,500 in 2012 to 14,000 by 2022, Red estimates.

In the automotive market, Red said to expect composites use to increase 10 to 15 percent annually, adding "auto has a significant potential to be as large as aerospace for carbon fiber, if not larger." 

In the wind energy market, Red said that although the lack of a production tax credit in the U.S. is clearly hurting the production of wind turbine systems, ongoing global growth is expected to continue to make composites demand here intriguing. Further, Red noted that many wind turbines installed in the 1990s are nearing the end of their useful lives and that many energy suppliers will be refurbishing blades and turbines to bring them up to current standards. Composite blade volumes are expected to grow from 1.6 billion lb in 2012 2.5 billion lb by 2022, and are represented in the below table in the Industrial category.

Carbon fiber production, Red estimates, is expected to grow as follows:

Carbon fiber supply, nameplate and actual yield, metric tonnes






The below table summarizes Red's forecast of end market demand for carbon fiber in aerospace, consumer and industrial applications:

Carbon fiber demand, thousand metric tonnes






CompositesWorld will issue a more detailed report from the conference in the coming weeks. You will also find a report in the March 2013 issue of High-Performance Composites.


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