Specialty carbon black is a high-end refined chemical manufactured by burning of hydrocarbons in limited air supply. Specialty carbon black or pigment black is the purest form of carbon black with lower level of ash, sulfur and metals along with other impurities. Specialty carbon black is made by using four processes namely furnace black, thermal black, acetylene black and lampblack. Specialty carbon black is a segment of carbon black where other segments include rubber and commodity carbon black. Specialty carbon black had a share of about 9% in 2013 in the global carbon black market.
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Specialty carbon black is used as a reinforcing agent in tires, belts, hoses, gaskets, diaphragms, vibration isolation devices, bushings, air springs, chassis bumpers, and multiple types of pads, boots, wiper blades, fascia, conveyor wheels, and grommets. Specialty carbon black is also used in refuse sacks, industrial bags, photographic containers, agriculture mulch film, stretch wrap, thermoplastic molding applications for automotive, electrical/electronics, household appliances and blow-molded containers. Silica is one of the key substitutes for specialty carbon black and is acting as a restraint for the industry. The green tire manufacturers are replacing specialty carbon black with silica to offer eco-friendly benefits to the users.
Specialty carbon black is more conductive than a rubber or polymer. Addition of specialty carbon black reduces the electrical resistivity by forming a conductive network through the polymer or rubber matrix. One of the key features of specialty carbon black is its special grades that optimize conductivity at lower dosage while meeting all the other critical performance requirements for conductive applications. For instance, specialty carbon black for semi-conductive cable compounds is optimized for smoothness, conductivity and chemical cleanliness. The key grades in specialty carbon black market includes softer pellet, low pellet, low poly-nuclear aromatics (PNA) and low sieve residue.
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Globally, Asia Pacific manufactures the cheapest carbon black which is resulting in shutting down of carbon black business by many companies in North America and Europe. Many are shifting their production facilities to Asia Pacific to minimize production cost and remain competitive in the market. Globally, China was the largest manufacturer and supplier of specialty carbon black in 2013. The market for specialty carbon black is consolidated and there are only few players operating globally. However, some rubber black companies are expanding their business to enter the specialty carbon black market which is expected to increase the industry rivalry to some extent.
Some of the major companies operating in the global specialty carbon black market are
- Cabot Corporation,
- The Orion Engineered Carbons GmbH,
- Zaozhuang Xinyuan Chemical Industry Co. Ltd.,
- Birla Carbon,
- Asia Carbon Industries Inc.,
- Continental Carbon,
- Sid Richardson Carbon
- Energy Co.