Global wax market makes room for alternatives

15 February 2011 17:03  [Source: ICIS news]

A line of candlesHOUSTON (ICIS)--Changes in lubricant refining technology have led to a decline in the supply of petroleum wax, and have opened the door for alternative wax formulations to grab market share, a study released by the Kline research group said on Tuesday.

Global wax supply in 2010 was estimated by New Jersey-based Kline at 9.6bn lbs (4.4m tonnes) , with petroleum (paraffin) waxes representing 85% of supply, dropping below 90% for the first time in decades.

A combination of tight wax supplies and rising crude oil costs has caused a steady rise in wax prices during the last five years, creating market openings for higher-cost synthetic, animal and vegetable waxes, the Kline study said.

Synthetic waxes, mainly represented by Fischer-Tropsch, and polyethylene waxes currently represent 11% of global wax supply. Vegetable and animal waxes – gaining use in board sizing, candle and fire log applications – account for 4%.

The Kline study said paraffin wax supply has eroded significantly in North America and western Europe as a result of rapid Group I base oil supply rationalisation. Petroleum wax is a by-product of Group I base oil production.

In the past, the decline in supplies from North America and western Europe was compensated by growth in supplies from China. However, the Chinese lubricant industry is demanding more Group II and III base oil stocks, leading to a flat or declining Group I supply, Kline said.

Wax consumption is expected to grow at an average annual rate of more than 2% from 2010 to 2020, the study said.

Insufficient supply growth, or a supply decline, could constrain growth in demand, said Kline.

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By: Frank Zaworski
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