IHS Chemical Week


Fueling Catalyst Demand

7:46 AM MDT | May 21, 2012 | By ROB WESTERVELT

Despite modest growth forecasts, refinery catalyst makers remain optimistic about their prospects. Demand for fuels in high-growth economies, particularly China, is transforming refining markets as this week’s cover story shows (p. 21).

Demand for fluid cracking catalysts (FCC) is growing about 3%/year, while demand for hydroprocessing catalysts (HPC) will grow 4%-6%/year, producers say. Refinery catalyst growth is tied to demand for fuels. World liquid fuels consumption grew by an estimated 800,000 bbl/day in 2011, slightly more than 1%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA; Washington) with all of that growth outside of the U.S. and Europe. EIA expects consumption growth of 1.0 million bbl/day in 2012 and 1.2 million bbl/day in 2013, with China, the Mideast, Central and South America, and other countries outside of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), accounting for essentially all consumption growth. Liquid fuels consumption in mature OECD markets is projected to decline by 400,000 bbl/day in 2012, with Europe and, to a lesser extent, the U.S., accounting for almost all of the decline.

EIA predicts liquid fuels growth of 3.5%/year in China through 2035, with growth in developed markets essentially flat. Producers are responding by shifting resources and building partnerships in China, Brazil, and the Mideast. “All of the growth in refined product demand is outside the U.S. and Europe, so winning new units outside the developed regions is key,” says John Nicols, v.p. of Albemarle’s catalyst unit.

Emerging market growth coupled with the need for higher-performance catalysts—driven by the deteriorating quality of crude oil feedstock and implementation of more stringent fuel requirements—continue to offer attractive, and highly profitable, growth opportunities for catalyst makers.

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