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Report Suggests US Demand for FR Plastics and Fillers to Exceed $200 Million in 2005

10 June 2005

A new report on coupling agents, surface treatments, modified fillers, and fibres suggests that the demand for these products in North America is expected to exceed $200 million, according to Principia Partners.

Principia Partners' proposed multi-client market study, Coupling Agents, Surface Treatments, Modified Fillers, and Fibres - Value Added Opportunities in Plastics, will provide a detailed technical assessment and analysis of the drivers and new developments that will affect the demand for coupling agents/surface treatment additives, performance minerals, and fibres in plastics in North America.

As more performance fillers and reinforcements find use in thermoplastics, the demand for products treated with coupling agents and other surface treatments has experienced growth of over 9% per year in plastics applications over the past decade.

Total North American demand for modified fillers and reinforcements (excluding fibreglass) in 2005 is expected to exceed $200 million, according to Principia Partners.

Chemically modified minerals account for about three-quarters of this amount, but a very rapidly growing segment is treated natural fibres. Leading mineral fillers that are frequently chemically modified include calcium carbonate (both ground and precipitated), kaolin, alumina hydrate, mica, talc, organoclays, silica, and wollastonite. These products represent the highest value-added segment of the mineral fillers market with average prices for some products exceeding $0.50 a lb.

Coupling agents and other surface treatments can be added directly to the filler or fibre, or incorporated during the compounding process. In recent years the trend has been to pre-treated fillers and reinforcements in order to optimize economics and control VOC emissions. Generally these treatments are incorporated at levels of 1% to 5% by weight of the filler/fibre, according to Principia.

The report states that the increasing use of fillers in thermoplastics has caused much of the recent growth in modified fillers and reinforcements. Adding that much of the use of coupling agents has focused on polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon due to the non-polar properties of these polymers. New applications for these polymers in specialty packaging films, wood-plastic composites, appliances, and transportation related components have driven much of the growth in modified minerals/fibres. All of these applications have a growth potential of over 10% per year, and for some the growth forecast easily exceeds 20% annually.

The report will determine the current and future market for modified fillers/fibres in plastics applications as well as coupling agents and other surface modification additives. The report will discuss new technological developments in coupling agents and other chemical modifiers and will also assess trends in the value chain for these products in order to predict whether filler/fibre suppliers or compounders/fabricators will benefit from future innovations.

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