Modest Gains in U.S. Polymer Foams Market Seen as Economy Recovers, but Volatile Crude Oil Prices May Pose Challenges

June 22, 2015

Wellesley, Mass., June 22, 2015 – With the recent drop in U.S. natural gas prices, U.S. polymer producers have restarted mothballed plants and building new ones. However, the collapse of crude oil prices may force these companies to alter their plans,  BCC Research reveals in its new report.

The U.S market for polymeric foam was nearly 7.9 billion pounds in 2014. This market is predicted to reach nearly 8.1 billion pounds in 2015 and nearly 9.3 billion pounds in 2020, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8%. The polyurethanes segment reached nearly 4.4 billion pounds in 2015. This market is expected to grow to nearly 5.1 billion pounds in 2020, with a CAGR of 3%. The polystyrene market was nearly 2.3 billion pounds in 2015. Registering a 2.4% CAGR, this market is expected to grow to 2.4 billion pounds in 2020.

In the roughly four years since BCC Research’s last study on the polymeric foams industry, the changes found in this major segment of the plastics production and processing industry were more evolutionary than revolutionary. Products and markets change as technology and society change, but aside from continuing work on finding newer and better foam blowing agents, the products and processes to make them are pretty much the same. Polymer foams find their primary applications in consumer products, such as cushioning for furniture and automobiles, thermal insulation for construction and packaging, and similar end uses that are driven by the business cycle. As the business cycle has turned upwards again after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, these products are again getting attention and sales.

However, the anticipated growth in the U.S. the polymers industry faces a number of potential roadblocks. The global nature of the economy and the high price of natural gas only a few years ago caused many U.S. chemical companies to stop building and even shut down their U.S. plants and build and operate new ones in countries with cheaper labor, feedstocks or both. The recent drop in U.S. natural gas prices has only caused U.S. to reconsider restarting or building new capacity in this country.

“Hydraulic fracturing has lowered the price of U.S. natural gas to give U.S. petrochemicals and polymer producers a price advantage over those in Europe who depend on naphtha cracking for polymer feedstocks,” BCC analyst Dr. J. Charles Forman. “But the sudden drop in crude oil prices to about the $50 per barrel has suddenly made Europe more competitive again. Some analysts say that if crude drops below $50, other producers will reach price parity with those in the United States. The drop in crude oil prices has made drilling with fracking less profitable than it was.”

Polymeric Foams (PLS008H) examines the changes found in this major segment of plastics production. The report discusses the most common and popular commercial polymeric foams and their applications, their technologies and competing plastic foams. Market estimates and forecasts for plastic foams of several kinds in many different important markets are estimated for the period 2015 to 2020.

Editors and reporters who wish to speak with the analyst should contact Steven Cumming at

Polymeric Foams( PLS008H )
Publish Date: Jun 2015    

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