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U.S. specialty chemicals markets continue to gain in second quarter

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes continued to gain during the second quarter, increasing 0.5% in May after an upwardly revised 1.0% gain in April and a 0.4% gain in March. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.

Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored by ACC, 15 expanded in May, 10 markets experienced decline and three, including lubricant additives, featured no change. During May, large market volume gains (1.0% and over) occurred in oilfield chemicals and plastics compounding.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was up 5.1% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. The index stood at 112.9% of its average 2012 levels. This is equivalent to 7.78 billion pounds (3.53 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains among 23 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Compared to last year, volumes were down in four segments, including lubricant additives (-1.8%).

Specialty chemicals are materials manufactured on the basis of the unique performance or function and provide a wide variety of effects on which many other sectors and end-use products rely. They can be individual molecules or mixtures of molecules, known as formulations. The physical and chemical characteristics of the single molecule or mixtures along with the composition of the mixtures influence the performance end product.

Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals. They may only have one or two uses, while commodities may have multiple or different applications for each chemical. Commodity chemicals make up most of the production volume in the global marketplace, while specialty chemicals make up most of the diversity in commerce at any given time, and are relatively high value with greater market growth rates.

This data is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments. The data also shed light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared to others in the marketplace.