Stand Alone Meltblown Capacity Utilization Post Covid

Availability of materials will continue to far outweigh demand for the near term

Global stand-alone melt blown nonwoven capacity to serve face mask demand erupted with a surge beginning in the first quarter of
2020.  Demand began to weaken in mid-year 2021 and normalized to pre-Covid levels by year end 2023. During that period, the number of global melt blown lines installed grew at a CAGR of more than 9% per year;  8X – 9X higher than the historical rate. The number of stand-alone meltblown machines more than doubled during 2020 to 2023 as compared to those existing in 2019. As Covid-based demand began to decline more meaningfully through 2023, newly commissioned meltblown lines fell idle or, at best, operated well below satisfactory utilization levels  What the future holds for these idled machines and for those now operating well below capacity depends upon several factors.

Prior to the surge in demand for facemasks in 2019, we estimate that global stand-alone nameplate capacity of melt blown machines 

present across the world was about 115,000 tonnes yielding about 94,200 tonnes of output. The largest market for this output was absorbent end-uses (oil absorbent wipes/booms) followed by insulation, filtration (air, gas & liquids), wipes, face masks and hygiene. Market demand growth in these sectors ranged from 5 – 6% and higher in developing markets. We estimate total global demand for stand-alone melt blown nonwovens in 2019 was about 75,000 tonnes, equal to a capacity utilization rate of 79.8%.

In 2023, we estimate global nameplate capacity to be about 273,000 tons and output capacity about 203,200 tons. We estimate global demand for all markets was about 121,685 tonnes leading to a  capacity utilization rate of 59.9%. Under these assumptions, demand grew at a CAGR of 12.9% over the four year period 2019 – 2023.

Assuming CAGR demand growth of 6.5% and no further capacity additions, full global capacity utilization of existing melt blown nonwoven output capacity would not be reached until demand reaches about 90% of the full output capacity of existing lines or 182,700 tonnes. Based upon these assumptions, full capacity utilization of all global capacity will not be achieved until 2031.  Of course, capacity utilization will be uneven among global regions and producers and demand and supply will vary.

In addressing this oversupply, producers will adapt depending upon their capability or desire to do so. Well established meltblown nonwoven producers will have an advantage given their in-house experience, knowledge, and financial ability to expand the size and share of existing markets they now serve, while also seeking out and developing new markets.   Less established or new producers will be faced with the decision of investing capital in resources, education, experimentation, and training to create in-house product and market development, in addition to marketing and sales teams.  Advantaged will be those melt blown producers with lines capable of utilizing a variety of raw materials (PP, PET, PLA, and others) and extruding bicomponent fiber.

Source: Nonwovens Industry

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