The alumina tryhidrate (ATH) flame retardant materials
segment harbours strong expansion opportunities on the back
of growing demand in both eastern and western markets,
according to a report from French-headquartered technology
research analyst ReportLinker.
The usage of ATH flame retardants in the global composites
industry will grow at a CAGR of 4.9% by value from 2016 to
2021, ReportLinker forecast in a report in September.
ATH’s largest consumer industries at present
are construction and building materials, automotive and
transportation, electrical/electronics and consumer goods
– the latter category includes furnishing, upholstery
The main drivers of the expected growth for the sector will
be increasing demand for sheet moulding and bulk moulding
compounds used in industries ranging from electrical and
electronics to automotive.
Electrical applications – such as cable and wires
– are expected to remain the largest market for ATH
flame retardants in the coming years, according to
ReportLinker, supported by stringent safety standards applied
by national regulators and a growing focus on the use of
ATH is the most common flame retardant material that is
halogen-free. A number of suppliers, as well as health and
safety regulators, are in the process of phasing out
halogenated bromine-based flame retardants (BFRs), which carry
environmental and health hazards.
ReportLinker forecasts "above average growth" for ATH in
electrical & electronics in the five-year period.
As regards geographical reach, North America is expected to
remain the largest market due to growth in electrical and
automotive applications coupled with stricter restriction of
halogenated materials’ usage in flame
Asia-Pacific is another main region where demand is forecast
to increase in the period, on the back of local governments
improving fire-hazard regulations.
This confirms viewpoints IM heard from some ATH suppliers,
who identified main Asia-Pacific countries as some of the
fastest-growing markets for their products.
Among the factors driving the expansion, contacts named the
expansion in construction – driving the cables and
wires segment – renovation of old buildings and
infrastructure and high demand for consumer goods.
This perception is what led German speciality alumina
producer Nabaltec AG to set up a Japanese subsidiary, Nabaltec
Asia Pacific KK. In July, the company told IM that Asia would
be a core focus for its flame retardants business.
Nabaltec ups hydroxide prices by almost 10%
- Tightness in US supply after shutdowns
- Price flatness for several years
- ATH market expected to appreciate in 2017
Nabaltec AG will increase the prices of its fine
precipitated aluminium hydroxide (or alumina trihydrate)
products by 9.5% from next year, the company announced in
The price hike will be rolled out from January, or as
current contr-acts allow, and will apply to all alumina
trihydrate (ATH) lines under the APYRAL range to all
In a statement, Nabaltec cited a "need for high investments"
and an "increase in costs in all areas" as reasons behind the
Johannes Heckmann, member of the board at Nabaltec, told IM:
"Several factors have led to this situation. Our cost curve has
not shown any increment since 2011 – it’s
been mainly a flat line."
"Demand for ATH as flame retardant is increasing and
we’ve been running behind the demand curve," he
Heckmann said the company has in the meantime seen rises in
labour, energy and raw material costs, as well as having
invested to expand its capacity.
He added that the recent temporary closure of Nashtec LLC,
Nabaltec’s US operation that used to produce ATH
products for flame retardant use, "doesn’t really
play a role here", but noted that two main US facilities
– Sherwin Alumina and Alcoa, Point Comfort –
have closed down, while Noranda remains in Chapter 11, creating
a situation of tight supply.
Heckmann forecasts that the ATH market will appreciate next
year, as higher demand comes to terms with lower supply.
"Availability of ATH on the market is limited. Prices will
certainly rise in 2017," he told IM.