Rubber market may expand over 5% annually until 2027 led by automotive; U.S. rail traffic contracted in mid-April from year earlier, Canada sees rise; Rail industry adds sensors for safety

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Port Arthur, Texas, at night. Image courtesy of 12012-Pixabay

Rubber seen expanding 5% annually until 2027 led by automotive demand

The global rubber market will expand by nearly 9,000 tonnes between 2022 levels and the next five years due to “increasing demand from the automotive industry,” a research group named Technavio said in an April 13 press release.

The market is set to grow by 8,795 tonnes from 2022 to 2027, “progressing at a CAGR of 5.28% during the forecast period,” it said. 

Demand for rubber from the automotive industry accounts for the largest share. In addition to natural rubber, there are several synthetic rubbers and combinations that make up the market.

“PBD rubber is typically combined with other elastomers, such as SBR or natural rubber, during the manufacturing of tires. As PBD rubber is highly resistant to cold temperatures, it is also for non-tire applications such as hoses, belts, gaskets,” according to the statement.

Some American producers listed in the release that stand to benefit include Bridgestone, that offers styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) used not just in tires but in shoe soles and heels. Exxon Mobil Corp is also listed as offering synthetic rubber, used in car tires, clutches, bearings, or belts.

"Buna rubbers, butadiene, and styrene-butadiene products" are frequently used to manufacture tires, the release added.  Polybutadiene (PBD) rubber is supplied in solid and liquid forms.

Polyisoprene rubber may “witness considerable growth owing to the increasing demand for synthetic rubber from automotive, but also in consumer goods, sports goods, medical, and other mechanical goods,” the statement said.

Another rubber, nitrile butadiene,  is also expected to witness substantial growth, it added.

U.S. rail traffic declines in mid-April from year earlier, Canada sees rise

Data showed that for the week ended April 15, 2023 the total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 468,197 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.4% compared with the same week last year, according to an April 19 statement from The Association of American Railroads.

Total carloads for the week ending April 15 were 234,066 carloads, an increase of nearly 6% compared with the same week in 2022.

U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 234,131 containers and trailers, down nearly 13% compared with 2022.

Meantime, Canadian railroads reported 82,319 carloads for the week, a nine-percent increase, and 60,931 intermodal units, down 15% from the same week last year.

For the first 15 weeks of 2023, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of about 2.1 million carloads, containers and trailers, a 0.7% increase.

Mexican railroads reported 23,548 carloads for the week, down 1.7% from last year, and 16,072 intermodal units, a 10% increase.

Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 15 weeks of 2023 was 566,804 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, a 2.4% increase from last year.

Adding sensors for safety

The U.S. rail industry is in the process of implementing actions to increase safety and prevent another chemical derailment, according to a separate press release from the association of U.S. railroads.

"The freight rail industry today is announcing an initial set of steps it is taking in its drive toward a future with zero incidents and zero injuries — one where what happened in East Palestine never happens again," the association said in March after the early February derailment.

“The industry believes that the February 3rd derailment and its aftermath require railroads and freight shippers alike to lead with actions that restore trust (…),” it said. There are plans to install detectors and other actions including first respondent training, the statement said.

“The industry has long recognized the risk posed by hot bearings and voluntarily installed thousands of hot bearing detectors (HBDs) across the railroad network” as well as acoustic bearing detectors.

“For over three decades, the Class I railroads have voluntarily spaced HBDs no more than forty miles apart on key routes, which are routes over which commodities that are particularly hazardous travel,” the association said.

“In recent years, all the Class I railroads have reduced their HBD spacing significantly below the 40-mile criterion,” it said.

“All Class I railroads have now agreed to go further and are immediately beginning to install additional HBDs across their key routes, with the goal of achieving average spacing of 15 miles, except if the route is equipped with acoustic bearing detection capability or other similar technology.”

This will amount to the deployment of approximately 1,000 new HBDs,” The association said.

The rail association said that it is also “accelerating the work of a dedicated task force that has been investigating the use of heat-resistant gaskets for tanks transporting flammable liquid.”

While we will continue to follow the National Transportation Safety Board’s ongoing investigation in Ohio closely and recognize its deliberate, methodical, and fact-based approach, railroads are committed to taking appropriate steps now,” said in March Ian Jefferies, head of the AAR.

Railcars play a key role in the delivery of chemical intermediates and plastic resins. The petrochemical industry, dependent on rail for transportation, has in the past voiced complaints about pricing and service received from railroads. Truck deliveries also play an important role, mainly for shorter distances such as from warehouses to ports.

By Reuters Events Downstream