Global fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) market demand was around 617.9 kilo tons in 2014. Refinery catalyst, the parent market is expected to grow to USD 6.70 billion by 2020 at a CAGR of 3.3% over the forecast period, thereby promoting FCC growth. Increasing fuel standards, better operational efficiency, selectivity, and stress on ‘green’ resources is expected to contribute to market demand.
FCC is a type of secondary unit operation that primarily enables additional gasoline production in petroleum refining processes. This chemical process uses catalysts to convert heavy distillates into lighter ones, deriving gasoline and diesel among other products. Rising demand for valuable products such as gasoline, olefinic gases, and petroleum products to meet growing fuel and power needs is expected to complement industry growth. FCCs have completely replaced traditional thermal catalytic processes to derive higher gasoline quantities with greater octane rating, in order to meet stringent carbon emission standards.
Exponential economic growth of various countries such as China, India, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, etc. has driven concerns regarding depletion of petroleum reserves. Globalization and rising international trade practices have triggered number of industries utilizing the rapidly diminishing resource. Escalating global fuel consumption to meet rising demand from transportation & industrial sectors is thus likely to boost unit demand.
Numerous governments are increasing investments in petroleum refining activities to meet rising demand, along with technological upgradation and enhancement of existing equipment. Future plans of refinery expansion and construction are expected to add to refining capacity, creating larger demand for catalytic cracking processes. Regional imbalance petroleum supply is anticipated to boost refining operations globally as well, creating larger market demand.
However, high operation and investment costs are likely to hamper growth. Gradual decline in gasoline demand from Europe and North America is further expected to negatively impact FCC industry growth in these regions. Feedstock composition is another major concern for refinery operators as well, including issues associated with heat & configuration balance and contaminants.
On the basis of technological configuration, the market can be segmented as side-by-side type and stacked-type. Stacked-type FCCs contain the catalyst generator and reactor within a single vessel with a regenerator below the main reactor, while the side-by-side types contain these components individually in separate vessels. The design and operation of the unit is highly dependent upon catalyst properties, while essential product properties include large pore size, low coke production, and compatibility with high temperatures and activity.
The global market has been categorized into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific (APAC), Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Central and South America (CSA). APAC is the largest and fastest growing consumer owing to rising fuel consumption in developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia, and others.
Low labor costs and inexpensive raw material supply has led to a shift in manufacturing base from Western countries to APAC region, which is expected to complement FCC demand in this region as well. High consumption of petroleum-based products owing to wide availability and low costs as compared to bio-based products is further expected to spur product demand in this region. Increasing backward integration of FCC manufacturers in order to reduce overall ownership costs is also expected to provide several growth opportunities over the forecast period.
APAC was followed by MEA and CSA owing to high demand from nations such as Saudi Arabia & Brazil respectively. Europe and North America present relatively mature markets for FCC owing to industry saturation and declining fossil fuel demand with a shift in trend towards sustainable & renewable resources.
Key players operating in the global FCC market include Albemarle Corporation, W.R. Grace Company, and BASF SE. Several other companies such as Flour Corporation, Shell Global solutions, UOP, Exxonmobil, Chevron Lummus Global, CB&I Company, and Axens are technological licensors of hydrocracker units.
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