The ICIS styrene butadiene rubber report (SBR) is published in Asia, China, Europe and the US. Our network of locally-based reporters gather market intelligence to published independent price assessments for 1502 non-oil grade and 1712 oil-extended grade in Asia, China and the US, while Europe’s grades are 1500, 1723 and 1783. There are contract and spot prices, depending on region.
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Updated to Q3 2020
SBR plants increased operating rates during Q3 as lockdowns were eased or lifted following the success of virus-containment measures. China, the world’s largest car market, took the lead as its synthetic rubber factories ran at higher operating rates amid rising automotive production and sales. Asian economies outside of China also largely reopened, resulting in an increase in synthetic rubber production during this period.
Demand increased during Q3 as economies in the region reopened. Downstream tyre makers replenished and built up their SBR inventories during this period in anticipation of tightened supply from SBR plant shutdowns in Q4, thus shoring up demand for SBR. Demand for end-products such as replacement tyres, footwear and industrial belts increased in the wake of ongoing efforts by Asian governments to stimulate and bolster their economies.
There were mixed views on SBR supply as some saw the market as less balanced in Q3. Others viewed the market as well supplied as demand was not strong. Export opportunities to Asia improved, due to the growing pricing gap between European and Asia BD prices.
Demand remained poor during the summer. The automotive industry was the hardest-hit sector, starting at the end of March when the pandemic spread throughout Europe. Demand in the automotive sector fell off a cliff as manufacturers were forced to shut in March amid government efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in Europe.
SBR supply was sufficient to meet demand, which was slowly recovering from the coronavirus trough of Q2. Many producers had not returned to full rates yet. Production was temporarily halted during Hurricane Laura. About 45% of US capacity was shut ahead of the storm, but reopened over the next several weeks as power was restored. Supply remained sufficient for customers during this time.
SBR demand was slowly rebounding, following Q2 tyre plant closures. Goodyear and other tyre makers ramped up their operating rates, but Goodyear anticipated that industry volumes would be down 20% year on year. Replacement-tyre demand was stronger than expected, but original-equipment demand remained sluggish. Overall, demand was below normal levels.
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Styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) is the most widely used synthetic rubber. Emulsion SBR contains 23.5% styrene and 76.5% butadiene.
Styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) is similar to natural rubber in its resistance to mild solvents and chemicals and, like natural rubber, can be successfully bonded to many materials. No acute health hazards are known or expected for SBR.
Styrene butadiene rubber is the largest volume synthetic rubber. With over 70% of SBR being consumed in the manufacture of tyres and tyre products, demand is very much dependent on this sector.
There are two major types of styrene butadiene rubber – emulsion SBR and solution SBR. There is a trend towards the increasing use of solution SBR as it is able to meet the increasingly stringent specifications in the manufacture of high performance tyres.
SBR is produced by the copolymerisation of butadiene with styrene in the approximate proportion of 3:1 by weight.
Emulsion SBR is produced using a continuous process while solution SBR can be produced on both continuous and batch processes.