STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Fluorine compounds are all around us. We use them every day, despite the fact that most people do not know them as such, or at least did not know them until the end of the last century, when controversies arose over issues such as the effect of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the atmosphere’s ozone layer, some other perfluorochemicals, and water fluoridation. Fluorine itself is chemically a bit curious; it is the most reactive halogen, yet its most well-known compounds such as CFCs and fluoropolymers (used in nonstick frying pans and many other products) are best known and used because they are stable and inert.
BCC Research defines “performance” fluorine compounds as those that perform a specific task, based on their physical and/or chemical properties, better than other products and materials. These criteria for “performance” are based more on function than price, but price is also a component of acceptance. By our definition and discrimination, most compounds that we exclude from the study are low-priced, large-volume commodity inorganic fluorides.
Our goal is to describe the compounds and markets for performance fluorine compounds of three basic families: inorganic fluorochemicals, organic fluorochemicals, and fluoropolymers. Because of the great diversity and breadth of these products and markets, no study can attempt to cover the entire fluorine chemical world. Many applications are quite small in volume, yet have fairly large dollar sales because they command high prices. Others, which are rather high volume and could be considered commodities, do really fill a performance function, for example, hydrogen fluoride (HF) as a petroleum alkylation catalyst. The compounds and applications we cover are discussed below under “Scope.”
REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY
Performance fluorine chemicals are important materials of commerce and today have both commercial and political significance. Most of us drink fluorinated water and brush our teeth with fluorinated toothpaste. We drive air-conditioned cars fueled by high-octane unleaded gasoline produced with the assistance of hydrogen fluoride alkylation catalyst. We cook with fluoropolymer-coated frying pans (best known by DuPont’s Teflon brand name) and wear Gore-Tex and other brand name weather-resistant outdoor clothing.
Other applications for performance fluorine chemicals are not as well known to the average person, but are no less important, since they affect chemical and electrical/electronic manufacture, packaging, and a number of other important commercial and consumer businesses and markets. Fluorochemicals have become increasingly important in semiconductor and other electronics manufacture.
This report is an update of a similar report by the same author published in November 2004 and covers not only the fluorochemicals and polymers industry in general but also changes that have occurred in the intervening years. There have been quite a few events that have changed these businesses in this time period, ranging from new controls on fluorinated chemicals to some new products and applications and company and business mergers and consolidations.
BCC Research performs these studies to provide a comprehensive and timely reference for those interested and/or involved in these products; this is a wide and varied group of chemical and other companies that make and supply performance fluorine chemicals and polymers, process technology and equipment, designers and marketers, politicians of all stripes, and the general public. We have sorted through and condensed information from a large amount of literature, reference materials, and other sources to compile this report.
CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY AND FOR WHOM
This report is intended to assist those involved in several different segments of the U.S. industrial and commercial business sectors. These organizations and people include those who are involved in the development, formulation, manufacture, sale, and use of performance fluorine chemicals and polymers. These include process and product development experts, process and product designers, purchasing agents, construction and operating personnel, market staff, and top management. BCC Research feels that this report will be of great value to technical and business personnel in the following areas, among others:
- Marketing and management personnel in companies that produce, market, and sell performance fluorine chemicals and polymers
- Companies involved in the design and construction of plants to manufacture performance fluorine chemicals and polymers
- Financial institutions that supply money for these facilities
- Personnel in end-user companies and industries, such as chemical processing, packaging, and electronics
- Personnel in government at many levels, primarily at the federal level but also state and local environmental and other regulators who must implement and enforce the laws regarding water and air quality, etc. This has become an international issue with concerns about the ozone layer and global warming
SCOPE AND FORMAT OF REPORT
This study covers many of the most important technological, economic, political, and environmental considerations in the U.S. performance fluorine chemicals/polymers industry. It is primarily a study of U.S. markets, but because of the global nature of chemistry it touches on some noteworthy international activities; these are primarily those that can have an impact on the U.S. market such as imports/exports, foreign firms that operate here, and the international protocols on issues like the ozone layer and global warming.
Market analyses, estimates, and forecasts are presented for base year 2010 and a 5-year forward forecast to 2015. Market estimate tables are presented in volumes in millions of pounds and are all rounded to the nearest million pounds. Some materials have very small markets, only a few million pounds or perhaps less than a million. However, the precision of any market analysis and estimate like this one, with many different products serving multiple markets, cannot be much better than a million pounds (and probably not even that precise). Thus, for all materials that have any market at all, the smallest volume will be one million pounds even though the actual volume may be lower than that. All growth rates are compounded and presented as a compounded annual growth rate, or CAGR. Because of rounding of these small numbers, some CAGRs may not agree exactly with figures in the market tables.
This report is segmented into 10 chapters, of which this is the first.
The Summary encapsulates our findings and conclusions, and includes the Summary Table with our overall major market estimates and forecast. It is the place where the busy executive can find the major findings of the study in summary format.
Next is an Overview to fluorochemicals and fluoropolymers, with subsections devoted to the three main types or classes of these products: (1) organic fluorochemicals, (2) inorganic fluorochemicals, and (3) fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers. The most important subclasses of each are introduced and described, such as aliphatic and aromatic fluorine compounds.
The next chapter is the first of two chapters devoted to market analyses, estimates, and forecasts. It discusses, estimates, and forecasts markets for performance fluorine chemicals by product type or class, again segmented into the three large groupings of organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, and polymers. We start the subsection for each of these three major product types/classes with a market estimate and forecast for the major types of performance fluorochemicals and polymers in each class, for base year 2010 and forecast year 2015. Then, in each subsection we introduce and describe important applications.
The next chapter discusses and forecasts the markets by application. We have categorized applications into nine specific groups, plus one catch-all “other” class for some uses that do not fall easily into one of the other nine. These applications groups are as follows:
- Water fluoridation chemicals, relatively large volume silicofluorides and inorganic fluorides
- Dentistry, inorganic fluorides used in toothpastes
- Nonelectrical equipment: End uses covered here utilize the physical, rather than chemical, characteristics of fluorochemicals; these lead to uses in industrial equipment and machinery manufacture and use as cleaning agents, functional fluids, and in finished polymer parts such as piping.
- Electrical and electronics (E/E) manufacture, mostly in the increasingly important business of microelectronics and semiconductors. Principal uses are in microelectronics and semiconductor manufacture, such as for cleaning and preparing E/E equipment for further processing.
- Electrical equipment, a segment dominated by two large end uses: fluoropolymer wire/cable sheathing and switchgear dielectrics.
- Chemical processing, which include all applications that serve the “chemical processing industries” (CPI) in its chemical sense. This means applications that stress chemical rather than physical properties, since physical applications such as chemical piping and valves are covered in nonelectrical equipment.
- Refrigeration, a market group served by only one type of fluorochemical, replacement products for the banned CFCs. These include hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), also now being phased out, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and a new class called hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
- Coatings and surface treatments for both inside and outside surfaces. We include here applications that may not end up on an outside surface, such as the important use in making insulation foam for architectural walls.
- Packaging and other consumer applications: These include fluorochemical replacements for CFCs as blowing agents for consumer products (such as appliance insulation and flexible foams for cushions, etc.), plus diverse other end uses such as sports clothes and some medical packaging.
- Other applications, ranging from fire fighting to Teflon tapes.
The next chapter is devoted to fluorochemical technologies. It includes discussions of the chemistry and physico-chemical properties of fluorochemicals and polymers, their syntheses, and some newer technologies.
Public policy and other public issues are discussed in the next chapter, primarily CFCs and their replacements and their effect on the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect and global warming, and the seemingly never-ending controversy over water fluoridation.
Next we discuss the industry and market structure of the U.S. performance fluorochemical/polymers industry, with emphasis on the major domestic producers and suppliers. We also note several important foreign-owned supplier companies that operate in the United States. Imports and exports, product prices and pricing methods, distribution, and technical service are also discussed.
Our last narrative chapter contains profiles of companies BCC Research considers to be among the most important or visible in these businesses. There are many more companies that operate in one or more niche markets, but we try to list the ones that we consider important enough to be considered major producers and suppliers.
The Appendix is a glossary of some important terms, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. used in the fluorochemical and polymer industry.
Outside the scope of this study are compounds we do not consider “performance” compounds. We make no attempt to cover the entire field of fluorine chemistry; it is simply too large. Literally thousands of compounds, most of them organic, are in use in chemical synthesis to make pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals. These compounds, especially the many intermediates, are impossible to categorize and characterize except for the fact that they contain fluorine.
We thus restrict the scope of this study to those performance fluorine compounds and classes of compounds for which definite markets have been established, whose suppliers are known, and which meet our criteria of “performance.“ Only single-entry moieties are considered here; that is, mixtures and compounded resins are excluded to avoid double counting of the same chemical or resin in virgin stock and in the finished product.
This strategy of including only single-entry moieties can be difficult. Since many such compounds are monomers or other starting materials as well as intermediates, there is always the possibility of double counting and subsequent estimates overstatement. Many popular refrigerants are mixtures of fluorochemicals.
Captive use further complicates the analysis; for example, a significant percentage of the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin made is used captively, along with significant quantities of organic and inorganic fluorochemicals that are made but then further converted in-house to a different product. Finished fluorine-containing pharmaceutical and agricultural products are beyond our scope since they are huge dollar markets by themselves. This study is concerned only with chemicals and polymers that are commercial products on their own and does not included captive use.
We define “performance” as signifying that the product has properties that make it unique for its performance and applications. Such chemicals, which normally command higher prices and are made in relatively small volumes, are also usually grouped with specialty chemicals and products (as opposed to commodities). This delineation holds pretty well for all products and applications in this report except three: hydrogen fluoride, some CFC replacements, and water fluoridation chemicals. These three groups are made in large quantities and thus could be considered to be commodity in nature. We include them because they do perform specialty functions that other chemicals do not do as well; thus, they are truly performance chemicals. To date the CFC replacements are also more costly than true commodities.
Because of the versatility of these compounds, many products and companies appear more than once in the report. In order to reduce repetition, in our chapter on markets by product type/class we present overall market estimate tables for each class of fluoro product (organics, inorganics, and polymers); each table is then segmented by major product type or application. Then we introduce the most important applications for each type or class.
In the chapter that follows on markets by applications, we estimate and forecast markets in each of the major applications groups and “other” applications, cited above. For each of these groups we break the forecasts down into the type of fluorochemical or polymer, and in many cases further break down the forecast to individual compounds, compound classes, or application (see below for more on the difficulties in classifying these materials).
Even with this separation, we still discuss some products and applications in more than one place. This treatment may seem repetitious, but we feel that it is important to cite key information at the place where it is appropriate and pertinent. Many readers will only purchase or may turn to particular chapters of the report for specific information, and we want that information to be there for them. Thus, any apparent repetition is a deliberate action to place information where it will be the most helpful. By covering the bases in this manner we attempt to show all the different uses and interactions, and by this means also again show the versatility of fluorine chemicals and polymers.
This report is an overview to the entire field of performance fluorine chemistry and its products, and as such is not as detailed as some specialty reports that focus in greater detail on one specific group of fluorine chemicals or polymers. BCC Research has published several such reports.
CLASSIFICATION OF FLUOROCHEMICALS
Definition and classification of fluorochemicals into our three basic categories is relatively straightforward, with the caveats noted below regarding compounds such as liquid low molecular weight (MW) polymers that could be placed in either the organics or polymers segment. Our classifications also follow usual customs and chemical nomenclature.
Nomenclature used is conventional; that is, we use ordinary chemical names and conventional notation for compounds and polymers. We assume that the reader has at least some elementary knowledge of chemistry; the glossary in the Appendix also defines some important terms. In cases where trade and public custom prevails, we also use the commonly accepted terms.
Because of the complicated and long chemical names for many compounds covered in this study, they are often referred to by acronyms or other abbreviations or names; we do the same and the common acronyms are both explained at the outset and defined in the glossary. Thus, fluoropolymers are usually referred to by their acronyms (e.g., PTFE, FEP or fluorinated ethylene-propylene copolymer [poly(hexafluoropropylene-tetrafluoroethylene)], etc., all of this in uppercase letters). Trade names are given with initial capitalization, such as Teflon for DuPont’s brand of fluoropolymers. Generic names are in lowercase script.
By the same token we use industry parlance in discussing CFCs: “CFC” refers to the now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, those compounds that contain only chlorine and fluorine in addition to carbon. “HCFC” denotes the first class of replacement chemicals, the hydrochlorofluorocarbons, with hydrogen in addition to chlorine and fluorine. Finally “HFC” denotes hydrofluorocarbons, the preferred compounds that contain no chlorine and therefore allegedly do not damage the ozone layer.
However, the HFCs also contribute to global warming and are therefore being themselves pushed for phaseout by environmental and other activist groups. This drive against HFCs started in Europe and is still primarily being pushed there. However, the drive has begun to have some effect in the United States with auto manufacturers working with DuPont and Honeywell on development of new HFOs to replace HCF-134a in automotive air conditioners.
Finally, a note regarding how we segmented and classified performance fluorine chemicals and their markets. Many such compounds are often listed either by their chemical classification (such as fluoroaromatic compound), by application (such as chemical intermediate), or both. This makes it difficult to place fluorochemicals and polymers into neat boxes in tables or charts. We had to make some arbitrary decisions regarding where to list and discuss many of the most important products. Our conventions are as follows:
Organic fluorochemicals are restricted to individual compounds, discrete moieties such as fluorobenzene. Any product that is a polymer of any sort, even low molecular weight polymers, which are liquids, are grouped with other fluoropolymers. We further break organics down into aliphatics and aromatics.
Inorganic compounds are simpler to group. We include all boron trifluoride derivatives with inorganics, even though a large part of the BF3 market consists of organic complexes; the active chemical is still inorganic. However, even with this simpler grouping, there are still some compounds classified either by name/type or by application. Examples of the former are silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4) and the fluoborates; of the latter, fluorides used in water fluoridation and toothpaste.
Fluoropolymers as a group consists of polymer resins (PTFE and its cousins), elastomers of several types, and low molecular weight polymers with many uses ranging from surfactants to textile finishing. Many low MW polymers are liquids and some find use as chemical intermediates; however, since they are polymeric in nature we include them with other polymers.
There are also many fluorosilicon compounds and products. They are all introduced and discussed where they belong. Thus, water fluoridation chemicals and SiF4 are inorganics, and fluorosilicon fluids and elastomers are polymers.
METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this study. Extensive searches were made of the literature and the Internet, including many of the leading trade publications, and well as technical compendia, government publications, and information from trade and other associations. Much product and market information was obtained from principals involved in the industry. Other sources included textbooks, directories, articles, and Internet sites.
Dr. J. Charles Forman is a research analyst for BCC Research covering polymers and chemicals. His work in industry included 21 years at Abbott Laboratories in R&D and manufacturing management. Dr. Forman has researched and written more than 50 multiclient market research reports on a variety of subjects ranging from building construction materials and spectroscopy, to several studies on plastic packaging. He has been writing for BCC Research for over 15 years. His educational credentials include an S.B. from MIT and M.S. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University, all in chemical engineering. He is also a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.)
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The information developed in this report is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice; nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or its use.