Renewable Energy Key Market for Global
​Organic Peroxides Demand


Organic peroxides (OPs) are used extensively in the plastics industry as sources of free radicals to initiate polymerizations and to achieve polymer modifications such as curing, cross-linking, and vis-breaking.  Their usage in the polymer industry can be categorized into five main functions:
 
  • Initiating polymerization and copolymerization of vinyl and diene monomers (e.g. ethylene, vinyl chlorine, styrene, acrylic and methacrylic acid and esters, vinyl acetate, acrylonitrile, butadiene, etc.), sometimes generally referred to as “high polymer initiation”
  • Curing (or hardening) vinyl ester resins and unsaturated polyester resins (UPR), which are used in various applications including wind turbine blades, septic tanks, water tanks, boat hulls, bathroom fixtures, automotive body parts, fishing rods, and car repair kits
  • Crosslinking thermoplastics such as polyethylene, elastomers, and rubbers
  • Reducing the molecular weight of polypropylene (commonly known as controlled rheology or “visbreaking”)
  • Acting as a synergist additive in fire retardant expandable polystyrene
 
To a lesser extent, organic peroxides are used in the polymer modification of resins such as polyethylene, either as viscosity modifiers (through the broadening of the molecular weight distribution) or to accomplish the grafting of functional groups. In resin compounding and processing, peroxides can also be used for gelation (or increased viscosity) to facilitate foaming processes.
 
Ketone peroxides, peroxyesters, and dialkyls are the organic peroxide classes consumed in the largest volumes globally. The largest single application for organic peroxides, based on volume, is in unsaturated polyester (UPR)  reinforced resins, accounting for roughly 45% of the total global organic peroxide consumption in plastics.  The polymerization of LDPE, PVC, styrenics and acrylic monomers represents about 44% of the peroxide consumption with the remaining 11% used in polymer modification and crosslinking.
 
Two key markets for organic peroxides are in the renewable energy space; UPR used in windmill blades and organic peroxides used in the crosslinking of the EVA encapsulant commonly found in solar modules.  A recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects investment in renewable energy to increase to around $400 billion per year by 2040, a 2-3% average annual increase with investment in wind growing faster than solar -  wind increasing 3.4% and solar 2.3% per year on average.
 
China is a driving force in the renewables sector.  As outlined in its latest 5-year plan, China expects installed renewable power capacity including wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power will contribute to about half of new electricity generation by 2020, fueled in part by $360 billion in government spending over the next three years.  Although renewables will still only account for just 15 percent of overall energy consumption by 2020, the momentum is growing. China's solar capacity more than doubled in 2016 with over 34 gigawatts of new solar generation added. The official goal is for 20 percent of the countries power consumption to come from low-emission energy, including nuclear, by 2030, compared to 11 percent currently.

Electricity market watcher GTM Research currently projects the annual global solar market to reach 85 gigawatts in 2017 -- more than double the installed capacity in 2014. The higher forecast is driven largely by China, which is expected to install roughly 30 gigawatts in 2017.
 
On 3 September 2016, China ratified the Paris Agreement,  and it has policies in place to reach its NDC goals. These policies are currently centered around the targets set in its NDC, which include a commitment to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 at the latest, lower the carbon intensity of GDP by 60%–65% below 2005 levels by 2030, increase the share of non-fossil energy carriers of the total primary energy supply to around 20% by that time, and to increase its forest stock volume by 4.5 billion cubic meters, compared to 2005 levels.
 
For more information on Organic Peroxides and Townsend’s recently published Plastics Additives 9 report, contact Peter Callais at +1-281 582 0150 or petercallais@townsendsolutions.com

For more information on the plastics industry in China, contact Dr. Clifford Lee at +1 281-582-0155 or clee@townsendsolutions.com

For more information about renewable energy, the Paris Agreement and other forces impacting global plastics demand, contact Barb Mitchell
​at +1-281-582-0473 or bmitchell@townsendsolutions.com