This market study estimates and analyzes the global activated carbon industry. Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal, is a processed non graphite porous form of carbon formed by activation of carbonaceous material such as sawdust, bamboo, coconut shells, wood chips, lignite, coal and paddy husk. The activation process includes two stages, with the first being carbonization of raw material such as peat, coal, or any organic carbonaceous material and the second being activation either by treating with oxygen or by chemical treatment to develop highly porous structure. Key activated carbon products used globally are primarily manufactured from coal which includes lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous and anthracite, coconut-shell charcoal and wood. Carbons used in water filters are usually manufactured from coconut shell or coal. There are however, smaller niches of products made from peat, olive pits, fruit nut shells, palm shells, pecan shells and macadamia nut shells. Coal pricing fluctuates by country with prices in the US and China being the most important. China has large coal industry and capacity but remains a net importer from the US, New Zealand and Australia. The reason coconut-shell charcoal and coal have such a big impact is that the yield of raw material to activated carbon ranges from 33% to 35%. The global market for activated carbon was estimated to be 1,254 kilo tons in 2012 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.7% from 2014 to 2020.
Developing market for mercury removal from flue-gas, for coal fired plants is expected to be a key opportunity for market participants over the next six years. The implementation of Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as industrial manufacturers and utilities have to upgrade their coal fired power plants to comply with regulations. This standard was signed in December 2011 and became effective in April 2012, and is designed to reduce the emissions of mercury, acid gases, metal, and other hazardous air pollutants from oil and coal fired power plants, solid waste incinerators, clinker cement plants, and other facilities operating industrial boilers. To meet these requirements, these industries will predominantly turn to Activated Carbon Injection (ACI) systems which use activated carbon and other materials.
Key product segments analyzed and reported in this study include powdered, granular and other activated carbon products. Powdered activated carbon (PAC) is mainly produced by chemical activation and is used for drinking water treatment and mercury removal. Granular activated carbon (GAC) is predominantly used for gas purification and made by gas steam activation. In water purification application, the degree of effectiveness of GAC filters is directly related to contact time with the water and flow rate of the water. Powdered activated carbon dominated global demand in 2012, accounting for 56.6% of total volumes. However, demand for powdered application is expected to be primarily driven by air purification applications and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.9% from 2014 to 2020. Granular activated carbon market revenues were estimated to be USD 769.8 million in 2012 and are expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.6% from 2014 to 2020.
Key application segments analyzed and reported in this study include liquid and gas phase. Activated carbon is used in wide range of applications in gas, vapor, and liquid treatment. It is an effective method of removing chlorine and its by-products such as total trihalomethanes and volatile organic compounds. It is used for medicinal purposes; in gas masks to filter out chlorine gas as well as in drinking water treatment to remove organic compounds that impart color, taste, and odor to the water. Gas and water purification are the major application bases for activated carbon. Global activated carbon demand for liquid phase applications was estimated to be 699.2 kilo tons in 2012 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.8% from 2014 to 2020. De-colorization of sweeteners and sugar, gold recovery, off gas treatment of waste incinerators, catalytic process, production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, automotive transistors, de-colorization and deodorization of fruit juices and wines are the other applications of activated carbon.
Global activated carbon market volume, by product, 2012
End-use industries analyzed and reported in this study include water treatment, pharmaceuticals, automotive, air purification, food and beverage processing. Water treatment industry dominated activated carbon demand in 2012, accounting for 41.2% of global volumes. The applications of activated carbon in water treatment include municipal water treatment, process water treatment in beverage production, point-of-use water filters, semiconductor manufacture, groundwater remediation, and treatment of landfill leachate. Typically, powdered and granular activated carbon is used to treat water. PAC is used to correct the taste and odor problems of water. GAC is used to remove chlorine and organic contaminants from water. Air purification is expected to be the fastest growing industry for activated carbon, in light of regulatory changes, especially in the U.S. and European Union, and is estimated to reach market revenue of USD 2,247.4 by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 15.1% from 2014 to 2020.
Asia Pacific dominated the global activated carbon market, accounting for over 40% of total volumes in 2012, with china being a leading exporter, accounting for over 35% of total Asian activated carbon exports in 2012. Water purification is the largest industry for activated carbon in Asia Pacific, accounting for over 47% of total regional volumes in 2012. North American demand for activated carbon is expected to reach 804 kilo tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 11.4% from 2014 to 2020. U.S. is the largest market for activated carbon in North America, accounting for over 80% of the total regional demand in 2012. European activated carbon market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% from 2014 to 2020.
The global market for activated carbon is highly consolidated, with top three market participants accounting for over 60% of global demand in 2013. Key market participants include Calgon Carbon Corporation, Cabot Corporation, Meadwestvaco Corporation, Carbon Resources LLC, CarboTech and Haycarb PLC. Application development is critical for competitive advantage, with companies looking for long-term supply contracts in order to maintain adequate inventory.