Last Update:
March 1, 2012

Trends in the chemical industry

  • Global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) grows by 4.8%
  • Chemical production increases in the European Union (+1.6%)
  • Price of Brent blend crude oil increases significantly year-on-year

2011 was a successful year overall for the chemical industry. Global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) grew by 4.8% – slightly slower than we had originally forecast for 2011 (+5.2%). Following strong development in the first half of the year, economic growth slowed down in the second half. Overall, growth in chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) stabilized at a high level.

Chemical production
(excluding pharmaceuticals) in 2011

Real change compared with the previous year

After returning to pre-crisis levels in 2010, global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) continued to develop positively in 2011 as a result of high demand from key customer industries. Chemical production grew in the European Union (+1.6%). Thanks to the close links between the chemical industry and fast-growing, export-oriented customer industries, chemical production increased more sharply in Germany (+2.0%) than in the European Union. Chemical production in Japan, however, posted a significant decline (–3.1%) as a result of the earthquake and tsunami disaster. In the United States, the overall economic situation also led to slower growth in the chemical industry (+2.1%). Chemical production grew strongly once again in South America (+4.7%) and Asia (excluding Japan) (+11.1%).

Price trends for crude oil (Brent blend)
and naphtha
($/barrel, $/metric ton)

The crude oil price of Brent blend increased significantly compared with the previous year. This was due on the one hand to increased global demand following the economic recovery, and on the other, to the tense political situation in North Africa and the Middle East which led to cutbacks in oil production. Nevertheless, fluctuations in the crude oil price over the course of the year were relatively low. The average monthly prices ranged from $96 per barrel to $124 per barrel. The average annual oil price was around $110 per barrel, an increase of approximately 40% over the previous year’s level and the highest average annual oil price to date.

Average monthly prices for the chemical raw material naphtha ranged over the course of the year from a low of $850 per metric ton in January to a high of more than $1,050 per metric ton in April. The average annual price of naphtha was $930 per metric ton, an increase of more than 30% over the previous year’s level.

The average annual price of natural gas in the United States was around $4/mbtu, unchanged from the previous year. In the European Union, the average price of natural gas rose to more than $10/mbtu, an increase of about 25% compared with 2010.

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