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Positive forecast for the carbon-fibre market

News International-French

14 Feb 2011

After the storm of the financial crisis, the market for carbon fibre should pick up again. Carbon fibre is in demand in a large number of segments – notably the industrial market – and the geographical distribution of demand is changing. One advantage of carbon fibre is that for certain components, its environmental impact is very low if you take their entire life cycle into account.

Demand for carbon fibre dropped in 2009, in lockstep with the global economy. Growth will remain feeble until 2012, and we won’t be seeing the 2008 level (30,000 metric tons) again before 2011. On the other hand, by 2015 the level should reach 60,000 metric tons (see Fig. 1).



Fields of application

The decline in demand from the aviation market can be explained by the decrease in build rates for commercial aircraft (mainly Airbus A320-A330/340), inventory adjustments at all levels, and production delays (Boeing B787). In Europe, the postponement of the A400M military aircraft, a large consumer of carbon fibre, is having a significant influence. Nevertheless, the growing use of carbon composite materials (up to more than 60% of the weight of an aircraft) is rather positive. The sports & leisure market is one of the oldest applications for carbon fibre, but it is experiencing only modest growth, as there are no new significant applications to be expected. China’s needs continue to grow, which is promising.


By 2015, what is called the “industrial” market will account for the majority of carbon needs, with more than 65%. There is a wide range of applications. Carbon fibre is, and will continue to be, used in the following sectors:


  • energy: wind power, pressure vessels, nuclear power/uranium enrichment by centrifugation, fuel cells/electrode gas diffusion zone, offshore oil industry/tendons, risers;
  • transportation: automotive (weight reduction, safety), marine (decks, hulls, masts);
  • civil engineering & construction (antiseismic structures, bridges, lightweight buildings);
  • industrial equipment: rollers (printing machines), PC chassis, machine parts, medical equipment.


Geographical demand

Geographically speaking, European demand is the highest and will remain so, as it is forecasted to reach 52% by 2015, compared to 18% for Asia, 15% for the United States and 15% for Japan (see Fig. 2).




If you compare the figures in Table 1 with those in the Carbon Report in the 51st issue (September 2009) of JEC Composites Magazine, you’ll notice a one-year time lag on the production capacity forecast for some companies. Common sense and bookkeeping needs made it necessary to shift the investments, although these still apply.



The world economy appears to be recovering at the pace forecasted by economists, and the carbon-fibre market is clearly tied into the world economy. However, the carbon-fibre market is likely to perk up with more than the proportional growth indicated by the 2015 forecast. By 2015, Europe alone could account for half of global carbon-fibre consumption. This can probably be attributed to the intent to target high-value-added composites specifically.


Along with the familiar uses for carbon and the more widespread use in sectors like the automotive industry, some new projects are stirring up interest. One of these is the Imperial College London’s work on the manufacture of automotive body components that also serve as batteries, where sandwich materials with carbon skins would function as capacitors.


So there are still many potential application areas for carbon.


Tab.1: Estimation of worlwide production capacities PAN-based and Pitch-based carbon fibre in metric tonnes
Nameplate capacity (tonnes)
Brand name 2008 2009 2010 2011
"Small tow"
Toray Group Torayca 17,900 18,900 18,900 18,900
Toray Japan 7,300 8,300 8,300 8,300
Soficar France 5,200 5,200 5,200 5,200
CFA USA 5,400 5,400 5,400 5,400
Toho Tenax Co. Ltd Tenax 11,800 13,500 13,500 13,500
Japan (T.T.J) 6,400 6,400 6,400 6,400
Europe (T.T.E) 3,400 5,100 5,100 5,100
USA (T.T.A) 2,000 2,000 2,000 2,000
Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd (MRC) Pyrofil
8,100 8,100 8,100 10,800
Japan 5,400 5,400 5,400 8,100
Grafil USA 2,200 2,200 2,200 2,200
Europe (SGL) 500 500 500 500
Formosa Plastics Group Taiwan Tairyfil 6,150 6,150 7,450 7,4502
Hexcel HexTow 3,900 4,750 4,750 5,300
USA 3,250 4,100 4,100 4,650
Spain 650 650 650 650
Cytec Engineered Materials USA1 Thornel 2,000 2,000 3,000 3,000
Dalian Xingke Carbon Fiber Co., Ltd1   360 360 760 1,760
Aksa Turkey Aksaca 0 750 1,500 1,500
Total "small tow"1   50,210 54,510 57,960 62,210
Output Coef. 0.71   35,147 38,157 40,572 43,547
"Large tow"
80K/320K …
ZOLTEK Group Panex 11,000 13,000 13,000 13,000
Europe   8,000 8,000 8,000 8,000
USA   3,000 3,000 3,000 3,000
Mexico   0 2,000 2,000 2,000
SGL GROUP Sigrafil C 3,700 6,000 6,000 6,000
Europe 2,700 4,000 4,000 4,000
USA 1,000 2,000 2,000 2,000
Total "large tow"1   14,700 19,000 19,000 19,000
Output Coef. 0.91   13,230 17,100 17,100 17,100
"Small tow"
+"Large tow"
Total nameplate capacities1   64,910 73,510 76,960 81,210
Total output1   48,377 55,257 57,672 60,647
Pitch-based carbon fibre Nippon Graphite Fiber Corporation Granoc 180 180 180 180
Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc.1 Dialed 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000
Cytec1 Thornel 400 400 400 400
Total nameplate capacities1   1,580 1,580 1,830 1,830

We can also mention several potential other players for which we were not able to obtain any data: in China (Yingyou Group Corp. in Lianyungang, Sichuan Xinwanxing Group Ceramics, Sinosteel Jilin Carbon, Zhongfu Shenying Carbon Fiber, Anhui Xinfeng Carbon Fiber, Ji Ji Yan high tech fiber, Jilin Tangu Carbon Fiber and three other potential projects in the provinces of Shandong, Zhejiang and Guangxi), in India (project of Kemrock Industries and Exports), in Canada (project of Fiberex), in Russia (Argon), and in Saudi Arabia (project of SABIC in cooperation with Sipchem).


1: JEC’s estimation, not confirmed by companies

2: 8,750 tonnes are planned for 2012