As global demand for low rolling-resistance tires continues to grow, silica firms are responding in kind with capacity expansions.
Precipitated silica is seeing an average annual growth rate in the U.S. of 3.8 percent from 2013 through 2018, said Stefan Schlag Leon Beraud, director of inorganic chemicals and minerals for IHS Markit, in an email interview.
Much of that growth is linked directly to rubber applications, tires and footwear as the leading factors that are creating a silica boom, Beraud said.
Low rolling-resistance or "green" tires, are made of rubber, carbon black and silica, and silica consumption in green tires is double the amount in standard tires, he said.
The combined use of precipitated silica and silane can reduce tire rolling resistance significantly and save as much as 8 percent on fuel consumption, Beraud claimed. As a result, the global share of low rolling-resistance tires was projected to increase from 15 percent in 2011 to 34 percent in 2016, and up to 45 percent by 2018, Beraud said.
As green tire production grows, Beraud said the volume of precipitated silica used in these tires is surging by an estimated 20 percent annually from 2013-18, compared with just more than 5 percent growth of precipitated silica use in all other applications for the same period.