CompositesWorld carbon fiber conference features demand/supply update

Composites industry forecasters predict that carbon fiber demand will outstrip current capacity between 2015 and 2017. Global carbon fiber demand is expected to reach 153,689 metric tonnes by 2020.

Related Topics:

At the recent CompositesWorld Carbon Fiber 2011 conference, held Dec. 5 -7 at the Washington Marriott in Washington, D.C., attendees were keenly interested in current estimates of fiber capacity, market demand and upcoming big applications that might justify more capacity.

In the preconference seminar, entitled “2011 Global Market Opportunities for Carbon Fibers: An Industry Evolving into High-Volume Processing,” presenters Chris Red of Composites Forecasts and Consulting LLC (Gilbert, Ariz., USA), Tony Roberts of AJR Consultants LLC (Lake Elsinore, Calif., USA) and David Service of Bluestar Fibres Co. Ltd. (Grimsby, U.K., USA) presented the latest in industry forecasts.

According to Red, who discussed the universe of current and potential applications, worldwide carbon fiber demand in 2011 is 45,800 metric tonnes (7,000 aerospace; 29,800 industrial including wind; and 9,000 for consumer goods/sports). That figure grows to 153,680 metric tonnes by 2020, with aerospace demand at 19,700 tonnes, industrial at 120,690 (which includes very optimistic predictions for wind energy) and consumer goods/sports at 153,680.

Namplate capacity, according to Roberts, is 102,440 metric tonnes today, and increases to 124,550 metric tonnes in 2020, thanks to growth as well as new entrants in the business, such as Hyosung in South Korea, SABIC in Saudi Arabia, Alabuga Fiber in Russia and at least 18 claimed producers in China. Roberts says the percentage of industrial demand will grow signficantly, from 48 percent today, to 56 percent in 2015, to 64 percent in 2020; at least 50 percent of that usage will be large tow, since large tow is much more efficient for industrial users.

When the demand curve is compared to supply, demand will outstrip current capacity at some point between 2015 and 2017, based on a compound annual growth rate in demand of 14.4 percent. Service pointed out that since 2.2 kg of precursor fiber is needed for every 1 kg of carbon fiber, demand for precursor is also growing, and unfortunately, so is the cost of oil and acrylonitrile feedstock.