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 Q2 2020
Plants in Asia were operating at reduced rates in Q2 due to lockdown measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus. Although China reopened its economy earlier than others and its SBR plants gradually ramped up their operating rates since April, other countries in Asia including India, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, were mostly running their plants at reduced rates.
Demand was weak in Q2 because of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which had battered the global economy. Demand was crippled as automotive and tyre plants shuttered their facilities and ran at reduced rates. Although China, the world’s second largest economy and world’s biggest automotive market, reopened its economy earlier than other countries, most countries in Asia only started to ease or lift their lockdown measures gradually in Q2.
Q2 supply lengthened as demand was much lower during the height of lockdowns. Suppliers adjusted utilisation rates to manage inventories. SBR consumers shut during April or ran at very low levels, resulting in dramatically lower demand. Contract prices for May slumped by various triple-digit decreases depending on starting point and account, to historic lows.
Q2 demand was hit significantly. At the beginning of the quarter, lockdowns were severe, resulting in tyre factory shutdowns. Tyre factories gradually restarted as the quarter progressed and as restrictions eased in parts of Europe at varying speeds. Non-tyre demand was also down year on year.
SBR production was lower in Q2. Producers were either shut or operating at significantly reduced rates because of coronavirus-related closures downstream. Despite reduced production, the market was sufficiently supplied because of the severe demand destruction. Tyre producers shut plants to combat the spread of the virus and because of its anticipated effect on demand.
Demand was sidelined in Q2 by coronavirus-related closures. Automakers shut their production lines, and tyre producers followed suit for up to two months. With synthetic rubber accounting for 80% of BD demand, the impact was massive. Any downstream plants that remained operating ran at significantly reduced rates. As plants reopened in May, inventories were worked down first.
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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.