Micro Wax, Petrolatum Deficits Develop

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Global microcrystalline wax and petrolatum demand are both expected to outstrip supply through 2019, creating a shortage in each case, consultancy Kline & Co. projected.

In the face of a shrinking supply of microcrystalline waxes and petrolatum, and on other hand, growing demand and penetration of alternative materials, it will suddenly be very interesting to know how this industry shapes up in the near future, Pooja Sharma, a project lead in Klines energy practice, concluded during an online webinar March 11.

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Microcrystalline Wax

Global microcrystalline wax supply, estimated at between 200 million and 300 million pounds in 2014, is expected to grow 2.9 percent per year to 2019, while the supply is expected to decline by 1.7 percent per year over that period, consultancy Kline & Co. projected.

This will result in creating a deficit of about 25 percent of the current supply, said Sharma, who noted the microcrystalline wax supply decline will be a result of the shutdown of API Group I base stock refineries along with the declining operational efficiency of existing refineries. Those factors will be more prominent in Europe and the Americas.

The Asia-Pacific region is projected to exhibit strong growth in microcrystalline wax demand to 2019, with industrial, food processing and pharmaceuticals being key application areas. In Europe and the Americas, demand will grow at a moderate pace, she said, with some growth coming from industrial applications. In terms of the overall demand, Asia-Pacific is the region with the highest demand because of the amount of industry there, followed by Europe and then the Americas.

The study divided the supply of microcrystalline wax and petrolatum into two key categories – food/pharmaceutical grade and technical grade – based on the level of regulatory approvals required for various applications. Food/pharmaceutical includes microcrystalline waxes and petrolatum used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food processing applications and thus must comply with certain national, regional and international pharmacopeia and food industry regulations. Technical grade includes waxes that dont contain aromatic compounds but also dont meet any standards.

The supply of microcrystalline wax was almost evenly divided between Europe and the Americas in 2014, Kline found. The European region accounts for the largest volume of close to 40 percent of the global supply, closely followed by the Americas, and the balance of close to 20 percent is supplied by Asia-Pacific, Sharma said.

Kline concluded that more than 80 percent of microcrystalline waxes produced in Europe are food or pharmaceutical grades, while those produced in Asia-Pacific are almost entirely technical grade.

Kline found about 17 refineries and de-oilers produced microcrystalline waxes through dewaxing of base oils and/or through de-oiling of petrolatum. Basically, the supply dynamics are such that the top five suppliers account for more than half of the global microcrystalline wax supply, she said. IGI was the leading supplier, followed by H&R Group, HollyFrontier, Shell, Nippon Seiro, Petrobras, Sinopec Jingmen Petrochemical, Sinopec Nanyang Petrochemical, Total, Mol Group, Calumet Specialty Products Partners, Cepsa, Repsol, Dong Nam Petrochemical MFG Co. Ltd., YPF, Galp and TonenGeneral.

She pointed out that in addition to refiners and de-oilers, hydrofinished microcrystalline waxes are also supplied by some blenders, who buy unfinished waxes from refineries and then perform hydrofinishing at their own end. Sharma noted two prominent examples: Sasol in Europe and Sonneborn in the Americas. However, these blenders are not reflected in [Klines calculations] so as to avoid any double counting of wax supply, she added.

Petrolatum

Crude petrolatum produced by refineries is sold to de-oilers, blenders, and specialty wax manufacturers for further refinement. Blenders and processors add value to product by modifying its characteristics according to requirements of end users.

Kline estimated global production for petrolatum at between 500 million and 600 million pounds in 2014. As with microcrystalline waxes, demand is expected to outpace supply to 2019.

The top 10 global petrolatum suppliers for 2014 were Sonneborn, Sasol, Aiglon, H&R, IGI, Penreco, Lukoil, Hebei Feitian Petrochemical Group, Raj Petro Specialties and Guangdong Maoming Petroleum Group. Together they accounted for more than half of the global petrolatum supply in 2014.

Global demand for petrolatum is forecasted to grow at a 2.3 percent compounded annual rate over the next 5 years, while supply will grow at a slower 1.4 percent, Kline said. Supply from the Americas will decline during this period, while petrolatum supply from Europe, Asia-Pacific and the rest of worlds countries will grow slowly. This will result in a supply demand imbalance of about 5 percent of current market size over the next five years, she noted.

Europe is the leading petrolatum producing region, accounting for nearly half of global supply, followed by AP and Americas.

Europe is the overall leading petrolatum consumer globally, accounting for nearly a third of global demand, followed by Asia-Pacific and then the Americas. Europe is also the leading consumer for petrolatum for use in pharmaceutical applications.

Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care applications will be key growth areas with moderate to strong growth expected in all regions. She noted the emergence of counterfeit products could present a challenge in the face of declining petrolatum supplies. Were more likely to see this trend in Asia-Pacific countries than anywhere else, she added.

The title of the study is Microcrystalline Wax and Petrolatum: Global Market Analysis and Opportunities.

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