How are the Declining Crude Oil Prices Impacting Global Natural Oil Polyol Market?

Polyol is the most important raw material required for the production of polyurea and polyuretha. It is derived from a nontraditional source – natural oils. Traditionally, petroleum and petroleum-derived feedstock formed the primary source for the production of polyols. Polyols find an extensive range of applications in industries such as paints and coatings, construction, and automotive. 

The interest in using biobased polyols, especially the ones derived from natural oils has seen a significant rise in the past few years owing to two chief reasons: extreme rise in crude oil prices in the past decade and environmental concerns regarding non-degradable nature of petro-based polyurethane products.

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How Extreme Rise in Crude Oil Prices Paved Way for Natural Oil Polyols  
Of late, the steeply rising crude oil prices globally have paved the way for the introduction of an alternate source of raw material for the production of polyol. Especially in the past decade, when crude oil prices saw a dramatic rise from nearly US$00 per barrel in 2000 to nearly US$130 per barrel in the middle of 2008, the need for finding an alternative for petroleum and petroleum-derived feedstock was felt to be most pressing. 

The adoption of natural oil polyols in these circumstances was the need of the period. Environmental concerns regarding the non-biodegradable nature of petro-based polyols also encouraged the adoption of natural oil polyols. This has led to the formation of a billion dollar industry. A market research report, published by the market research firm Transparency Market Research, states that the market for natural oil polyols had a valuation of US$3.88 billion in 2013. The report projects a good growth trajectory for the market’s future over the period 2014-20. According to the report, the market will expand at a 9.3% CAGR and rise to US$7.22 billion by 2020. It should be remembered however, that this forecast was based at a time when prices of crude oil in the global market were still high, almost double of what they are now.  

Will the Current Low Prices Prompt Polyol Producers to go Back to the Petroleum Industry for Feedstock?
Chances are ripe. The rapidly declining prices of crude oil since the beginning of this year have changed the overall dynamics of many industries. As oil companies continue to reduce oil prices to sustain the tough times, an industry such as polyol, which primarily made its move to natural oil feedstock due to extreme rise in crude oil prices, has every chance of moving back to its traditional, most-trusted source – petroleum. Consistently dropping crude oil prices are definitely attracting industries that source a variety of raw materials from the oil industry, and the situation can very much impact the natural oil polyol market negatively. 

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But it also needs to be remembered that the price fluctuations in the crude oil market is nothing new. Even if the market for natural oil polyol follows a rough growth path for some time starting from now, the market has every chance of recovering its proceeds in the long run. The added sustainability granted to polyurethane products by natural oil polyols hints the bright future of these substances.

As the world begins realizing the added benefits of natural oil polyols above the polyols based on petroleum products, regulations mandating the use of the former may also follow soon. What businesses in the global natural oil polyol market need now is to have faith in the growing awareness of industries and consumers about the need for sustainable and bio-degradable products. After all, the times when the world will demand for everything that is ‘green’ is not very far away.


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