World demand for chemicals used in petroleum refineries is forecast to advance at a 3.5 percent annual pace to 18.3 million metric tons in 2013, valued at $26.8 billion, according to a report by the Freedonia Group. Increased refinery chemical usage will be driven by continued investment in chemically-intensive conversion and petroleum treatment processes, as refiners seek to meet tightening environmental standards while boosting yields of gasoline and diesel fuel.

WORLD REFINERY CHEMICAL DEMAND

(000 metric tons)

% Annual Growth

Item

2003

2008

2013

03-08

08-

13

World Refinery Chemical Demand

11900

15400

18250

5.3

3.5

North America

5560

6765

7465

4.0

2.0

Western Europe

2060

2635

3055

5.0

3.0

Asia/Pacific

2440

3380

4465

6.7

5.7

Latin America

530

670

820

4.8

4.1

Eastern Europe

555

775

915

6.9

3.4

Africa/Mideast

755

1175

1530

9.2

5.4

Source: The Freedonia Group, Inc.

Catalysts are widely used to improve energy efficiency and process productivity in petroleum treatment and conversion applications. Freedonia says catalytic cracking and hydroprocessing represent the highest value markets for catalysts, primarily employing zeolite and metal catalysts, respectively. Although the largest application in volume terms is alkylation, its impact in value terms is relatively small, since the process typically utilizes low-value sulfuric acid catalyst. Demand growth for pH adjusters and corrosion inhibitors is expected to outpace that for catalysts through 2013, with gains primarily driven by increases in refinery output and internal water recycling.

North America is the largest regional consumer of refinery chemicals, due to high levels of chemical use in the advanced refineries of the United States and Canada, according to Freedonia. In addition to widely employing chemically-intensive catalytic conversion and treatment processes, North America accounts for the bulk of global alkylation capacity, which requires the heavy use of low-value sulfuric acid catalysts. Through 2013, chemical growth in North America and Western Europe will be restrained by decreasing refinery output as less profitable refineries are closed. Significantly faster gains in refinery chemical consumption are expected in the Asia/Pacific and Africa/Mideast regions, with demand boosted by both rising refinery throughput and the increased adoption of catalytic refining processes as the regions’ refineries upgrade from distillation and thermal cracking technologies.