Carbon fiber's future: Supply and demand

CompositesWorld's Carbon Fiber conference began yesterday with a pre-conference seminar on carbon fiber supply and demand, which shows that automotive and energy are expected to be big drivers of carbon fiber composites use in the next decade.


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Chris Red, of Composites Forecasts and Consulting LLC, speaking on Nov. 9 at CompositesWorld's annual Carbon Fiber conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Chris sees the automotive and pressure vessel markets driving substantial carbon fiber composites use over th next decade.

CompositesWorld's annual Carbon Fiber conference kicked off yesterday, Nov. 9, in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a pre-conference seminar presented by Chris Red of Composiites Forecasts and Consulting LLC, on the global outlook for carbon fibers and carbon fiber composites. As usual, Chris included his assessment of carbon fiber supply and demand, through 2025. 

Let's jump right to the numbers. First, in terms consumption by volume, the vast majority (75%) of carbon fiber is used by the industrial market, which includes automotive, pressure vessels and wind energy. The rest goes to the aerospace market (14%) and the consumer market (11%). 

The biggest drivers of carbon fiber use over the next decade, says Chris, will be automotive, pressure vessels, wind energy, non-wind energy, commercial aerospace structures and aerospace interiors. His outlook for those markets is here:

End market carbon fiber consumption, metric tons

Market 2016 2021 2025 CAGR (%)
Automotive 11,825 23,526 32,708 12.03
Pressure vessels 8,206 25,674 45,327 22.24
Wind turbines 17,250 31,744 46,477 10.91
Non-wind energy 3,750 11,440 29,356 24.45
Commercial aerostructures 7,506 10,319 10,110 6.2
Commercial aero interiors 4,649 5,196 5,027 2.7

Globally, this is how Chris sees total carbon fiber demand adding up over the next decade. Note that in five years, Chris expects the industrial market will be using more carbon fiber (141,800 metric tons) than the entire world consumes today (101,600 metric tons).

Global carbon fiber demand summary, metric tons

Market 2016 2021 2025 CAGR (%)
Consumer 15,200 17,100 19,100 2.3
Aerospace 17,900 22,900 23,100 2.62
Industrial 68,500 141,800 220,100 12.38
Total 101,600 181,900 262,400 9.95

On the supply side, Chris says to expect increase in global carbon fiber manufacturing capacity in the 2020-2024 timeframe of 100,000 metric tons to meet the surge in demand. His carbon fiber output estimates look like this:

Estimated darbon fiber nameplate capacity vs. actual output, metric tons

Year Nameplate Actual Knockdown (%)
2006 34,841 25,730 60
2011 92,550 55,530 60
2016 153,350 102,130 67
2021 199,060 153,720 82

Look for a more complete report on Chris' data and the rest of the Carbon Fiber conference in the CompositesWorld Blog and in the magazine.