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Reflections on San Diego

The Carbon Black World 2012 conference, which was held last week at the Omni hotel in San Diego, was lively and well attended. Andrew Smaha and his crew at Smithers Rapra, along with a stellar advisory committee, put together a great conference that was chaired by the indefatigable Rikki Lamba (VP, Smithers Rapra NA) and Jim Popio (GM, Director of Enginnering, Smithers Rapra NA). The agenda was broader than it has been in previous years, with presentations from representatives of the auto industry (Cynthia Flanagan at Ford Motor), the tire industry (Brad Rump at Cooper Tire & Rubber), private equity (Kevin Hocevar at Northcoast Research), and tire recycling (Alan Barton at Lehigh Technologies), all of which expanded upon a solid base of presentations from within the carbon black industry on supply and demand, feedstocks, technology, and sustainability. The attendee list also was quite diverse, which is good to see and indicative of the increased attention the industry is attracting.

As we have at four previous Carbon Black World conferences, Notch Consulting presented a paper on supply/demand dynamics in the carbon black industry. After a solid first quarter, 2012 is proving to be a challenging year for the carbon black industry, especially in Europe, where the debt crisis put the brakes on what had been a sturdy recovery coming out of the 2009 recession. The North American market also is expected to see volume declines in 2012 as a robust OEM passenger tire market cannot fully offset a weaker replacement tire market. Still, global volumes are forecast to rise nearly 2% in 2012, driven by gains in Asia, especially China. Long-term forecasts (2011-2015) are for solid volume growth of 4%-5%/year at the global level, though, again, most of this gain is attributable to China, where volumes are expected to rise 7% per year. Gains in North America and Europe are pegged at 1%-2%/year through 2015, driven by substantial new investment in tire production capacity.

The next fully updated issue of the Carbon Black Quarterly Newsletter will be released next week. This issue focuses on regional supply/demand, with detailed country-by-country data.

Below: Willet on shore at La Jolla; harbor seal at La Jolla cove

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