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Most Plastics Specialty Chemical Market Volumes Down in May
June 23, 2021

More May data released from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) this week showed a build in volumes for US specialty chemicals. However, plastics-related specialty chemicals market volumes were mostly lower for Plastics Additives, Plasticizers, and Plastics Compounding.

Specialty chemicals may only have one or two uses, compared to commodity chemicals with multiple applications. According to the ACC, the trends in specialty chemical segments provide a detailed view of trends in manufacturing and sheds light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared with others.

ACC data showed US specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.7% in May and were above the pre-winter storm levels of January. Activity remains off from pre-pandemic levels. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 20 expanded in May, up from 16 in April and three in February. Seven segments declined, and one was flat. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 73% in May, up from 57% in April and 11% in February. During May, 10 segments showed gains of 1.0% or more.

Overall, May specialty chemicals volumes were up 13.7% on a year-over-year basis, rebounding from the depressed levels of last year. Total volumes stood at 99.0% of their average 2017 levels, equivalent to 7.26 billion pounds (3.29 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, 26 chemical segments expanded in May. Diffusion was 93% in May, off slightly from 96% in April.

The direction for plastics-related volumes was mixed and to the downside.

Combined Plastics Additives, Plasticizers, Plastics Compounding Market Volume, Percentage Change:

-0.1% from April

+2.2% year-on-year

-11.2% year-on-year

Breakdown Per Segment, Percentage Change:

Plastic Additives:

+0.8% from April

-3.5% year-on-year

-6.7% year-to-date


+1.0% from April

-4.2% year-on-year

-7.5 year-to-date

Plastic Compounding:

-1.9% from April

+9.9 year-on-year

+3.0% year-to-date

The latest ACC data for specialty chemicals comes after May preliminary production, and sales data was already released in June for HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE. Out of that initial data, LDPE and LLDPE increased production from April by 6% and 1.4%, respectively. HDPE production was down by 3% from April. Final data for those resin grades is expected by the end of June.

By Brian Balboa for The Plastics Exchange.

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