The global specialty surfactants market is expected to grow considerably owing to its vast applications in sectors such as home care, food processing, oilfield chemicals, paints & coatings, emulsion polymerization, textile, and construction.
Surfactants reduce the surface tension of the liquid and remain stable in solutions containing relatively high concentration of electrolytes. Owing to these characteristics, the surface active agents are being used as hard surface cleaners, in textile scouring, and as metal cleansers.
Surface-active agents are manufactured from two basic methods i.e. Oleochemical and Synthetic. Oleochemical are the natural vegetable oils such as seed oils of palm and coconut. The synthetic surfactants are the basic petrochemical feedstocks such as ethylene and benzene which are derived from the feedstock. The determining factor of surfactant pricing is the raw material cost of the feedstock. The key utility of a surfactant is to enhance the performance of water-based formulation comprising of a range of ingredients such as other chelating agents, thickeners, solvents, alkalis/salts, foamers/de-foamers and fragrances.
Household cleaning detergents hold the maximum market share among the end-use segment. The household detergent trade includes laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, prespotters, carpet cleaners and fabric softeners. Surface-active agents are used for wetting surfaces in dishwasher detergents to assist in soil removal.
Rising popularity of bio-based surface active agent is one of the major trends in the market. Lower prices of synthetic wetting agents, increasing disposable income, and easy accessibility are anticipated to propel further the trade.
The specialty surfactants can be segmented by product into amphoteric, anionic, cationic and nonionic surfactant. The anionic surface-active agent is widely used owing to its widespread application in LABS (Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfate). The non-ionic surface-active agent represents bio-friendly characteristics and degradability which is expected to boost its utilization rate in the forecast period.
There has been an increase in demand for high-value products in the consumer goods sector owing to the lower prices of synthetic surface-active agents, which is expected to drive the market growth. The emerging trends include corporate consolidation as smaller producers are being acquired by larger firms such as in 2010, BASF acquired Cognis to enter high-margin businesses like personal care and cosmetics.
Growing demand for renewable goods that are safe to use and are less hazardous to the environment is expected to drive market growth over the forecast period. Increased emphasis on R&D to produce value-added differentiated products is anticipated to increase the business share. Augmented use of surfactant blends that deliver better on cost-performance quotient and the introduction of concentrated cleaners to reduce costs are some of the trade trends observed in the recent years.
Specialty surfactants are used in the agriculture sector on a major scale. The applications comprise of additives primarily in pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Surface-active agents such as ‘Glycine Technical Grade’ are progressively used in agricultural practices. ‘Glycine Technical Grade’ helps in chemical synthesis and provides mineral complexing sites for optimal absorption in agricultural applications which makes it an optimal choice for farmers and industrial sector.
The food processing market is the key market of specialty surfactants. The surface-active agent delivers multifunctionality properties for food additives such as wetting agents, dispersants, emulsifiers, solubilizers and agents in foods which contain oils & fats such as dairy foods, baked goods, shortenings, salad dressings and margarine.
The global oil companies are in need of a cost-effective method to scrub, clean, rinse, flush the oil & grime linked with all manner of oilfield equipment. The applications of surface-active agent include drilling/completion, well stimulation, pipeline transport & production/refining whereby anionics are used as defoamers, cationic & amphoteric as biocides & corrosion inhibitors, and nonionic as demulsifiers.
Natural gas & crude oil production and refining operations utilize the maximum volume of oilfield industrial surface-active agent. Applications involve the use of some specialty surfactant solutions such as Hyonic Rig Wash, a cleaning agent introduced by GEO specialty chemicals that reduce downtime due to cleaning. Such trends are expected to bring about considerable prospects over the forecast period.
The industry is facing numerous environmental and regulatory challenges, along with consumer pressure on the packaging, transporting, production, exposure, handling, use and disposal of its products. The adverse effect of specialty surfactants on the environment has led to a realization of numerous environmental regulations such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation, Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Rising competition from vegetable oil surfactants and unstable crude oil prices are some of the factors that are expected to hamper the trade.
In developing countries such as India and China, demand for personal care products is increasing due to expanding middle-class consumer base and rising disposable income of general populace, which in turn is driving the market. Specialty surface-active agents are used in home care, personal and industrial segments. India holds a large market for niche beauty products being offered in the oil-free fairness face washes. Surfactant-based face washes, gels, and hair creams are gaining popularity owing to its cleansing ability and their customization. Some of the key market participants are BASF, Akzo-Nobel, Stephens and Kao.
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