Global Polyol Market Overview – Bolstering Demand From Automotive and Construction Sector

The global polyols market is expected to grow with a healthy CAGR of 5.34 % in the forecast period. A polyol is an organic compound containing multiple hydroxyl groups. Oligomeric polyether polyols are known to greatly improve the flexibility and toughness of polyesters and polyurethanes whereas monomeric polyols, due to their low equivalent weights, produce more rigid polymers. Polyols are classified into three categories: Polymeric polyols, Low molecular weight polyols and Sugar alcohol. Polymeric polyols are the most widely used polyols. Polyol is of two main kinds, polyether polyols and polyester polyols out of which polyether polyols are the most demanded as it is used in the production of polyurethane. Low molecular weight polyols are used in polymer chemistry as crosslinking agents. Polyols used in the production of commercial alkyd resins are glycerol, trimethylolpropane, and pentaerythritol. Sugar alcohol is commonly obtained by the hydrogenation of sugars and is added to foods because of its lower caloric content than sugars and is mainly used in food industries. Polyols are also sub-divided into grades depending upon their molecular weight; below 1000 MW, 1001-2999 MW, 3000MW and above. Higher molecular weight polyols with molecular weights from 3000 to 10,000 are used to make more flexible PUs, while lower molecular weight polyols are used for making more rigid products. Polyols with MW 3000 and above are mostly in demand.

Polyester polyols come in various forms depending on the end use application. These forms can include liquids at room temperature, crystalline solids, waxy solids, and solvent cuts. Common polyester polyols such as polycaprolactone, polyglycolide, and polylactide are often found in biodegradable polyurethanes. Widely known applications for polyester polyols include flexible foams, surface and fabric coatings, microcellular shoe systems, moisture-cured PU, industrial coatings, inks and castable elastomers, etc.

Types of Polyurethane:

Flexible Polyurethane Foam:

Flexible Polyurethane foam is light, comfortable, durable and supportive can be created almost in every shape and firmness. Hence, it is used in cushioning for a variety of products including bedding, automotive interiors, carpet underlay, furniture and packaging.

Rigid Polyurethane Foam:

Rigid polyurethane and polyisocyanurate (polyiso) foams generate one of the world’s most popular, energy-efficient and versatile insulations. These foams are effective insulation materials that can be used in roof and wall insulation, insulated windows, doors and air barrier sealants. These foams are being used to maintain uniform temperature and lower noise levels in homes and commercial properties, and therefore can significantly cut energy costs while making commercial and residential properties more efficient and comfortable.

Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants and Elastomers (CASE)

Polyurethane coatings can enhance a product’s appearance and lengthen its lifespan. Polyurethane adhesives can provide strong bonding advantages, while polyurethane sealants provide tighter seals whereas, Polyurethane elastomers can be molded into almost any shape, are lighter than metal, offer superior stress recovery and can be resistant to many environmental factors. The uses of polyurethanes in the coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) market offer a broad and growing spectrum of applications and benefits.

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU):

TPU is highly elastic, flexible and resistant to abrasion, impact and weather. TPUs can be colored or fabricated in a wide variety of methods and their use can increase a product’s overall durability. It is an elastomer that is fully thermoplastic. Like all thermoplastic elastomers, TPU is elastic and melt-processable. In addition, it can be processed on injection, extrusion, blow and compression molding equipment. It can be vacuum-formed or solution-coated and is well suited for a wide variety of fabrication methodologies. TPU can provide a considerable number of physical property combinations, making it an extremely flexible material adaptable to dozens of uses such as construction, automotive and footwear.

Reaction Injection Molding (RIM)

In addition to high strength and low weight, polyurethane RIM parts can exhibit heat resistance, thermal insulation, dimensional stability and a high level of dynamic properties. Adding design flexibility, the polyurethane RIM process produces parts that are usually not achievable using typical injection molding processes, such as thick- and thin-walled parts, encapsulated inners and foamed cores. Car bumpers, electrical housing panels and computer and telecommunication equipment enclosures are some of the parts produced with polyurethanes using reaction injection molding (RIM). RIM technology has various applications in the automotive, furniture, construction, appliance, and recreation sectors.


Polyurethane binders are used to adhere numerous types of particles and fibers to each other. Their primary areas of use are in the manufacturing of wood panels, rubber or elastomeric flooring surfaces and sand casting for the foundry industry.

Waterborne Polyurethane Dispersions (PUDs):

Waterborne polyurethane dispersions (PUDs) are coatings and adhesives that use water as the primary solvent. With increasing federal regulation on the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that can be emitted into the atmosphere, PUDs are being used in more industrial and commercial applications.

Applications for Polyurethane:

Garments: Polyurethanes can be made into fine threads. Thus, they are combined with nylon to make stretchable and lightweight garments. Moreover, polyurethanes have been improved and developed into spandex fibers, polyurethane coatings and thermoplastic elastomers. Manufacturers can make a broad range of polyurethane apparel from man-made skins and leathers used for garments, sports clothes and a variety of accessories because of today’s advances in polyurethane techniques.

Appliances: Polyurethanes are an important component in major appliances that consumers use every day. The most common use for polyurethanes in major appliances is rigid foams for refrigerator and freezer thermal insulation systems. Rigid polyurethane foam is an essential and cost-effective material that can be used for meeting required energy ratings in consumer refrigerators and freezers.

Automotive: Polyurethanes have a wide range of applications in automobiles. In addition to the foam that makes car seats comfortable, bumpers, interior “headline” ceiling sections, the car body, spoilers, doors and windows all use polyurethanes. Moreover, Polyurethane also enables manufacturers to provide drivers and passengers significantly automobile “mileage” by reducing weight and increasing fuel economy, comfort, corrosion resistance, insulation and sound absorption.

Building and construction: With its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, insulation properties, durability and versatility, polyurethane is frequently used in building and construction. The insulation provided by polyurethane is one of the most efficient at blocking out heat during the summer and keeping warmth in during winter. Thus, it helps in conserving natural resources and preserving the environment by reducing energy.

Electronics: Non-foam polyurethanes are frequently used in the electrical and electronics industries to encapsulate, seal and insulate fragile, pressure-sensitive, microelectronic components, underwater cables and printed circuit boards also known as “potting compounds”. They can protect electronics by providing excellent dielectric and adhesive properties, as well as exceptional solvent, water and extreme temperature resistance.

Furnishings: Polyurethane, mostly in the form of flexible foam, is one of the most popular materials used in home furnishings such as furniture, bedding and carpet underlay. As a cushioning material for upholstered furniture, flexible polyurethane foam works to make furniture more durable, comfortable and supportive.

Medical: Polyurethanes are commonly used in a number of medical applications, including surgical drapes, wound dressings, catheter and general-purpose tubing, hospital bedding, and a variety of injection-molded devices. Their most frequent use is in short-term implants. Polyurethane use in medical applications can be more cost-effective and provide for more longevity and toughness.

Packaging: Polyurethane packaging foam (PPF) is broadly used to safely protect and transport many items, such as electronic and medical diagnostic equipment, delicate glassware and large industrial parts. PPF can provide more cost-effective, form-fitting cushioning that uniquely and securely protects items that need to stay safe in place during transit.

Globally, polyether polyols accounted for the largest market share and are expected to continue their dominance over the forecast period. Polyether polyols have rebound properties, wear and tear resistance, and hydrolytic stability owing to which it is used to formulate rigid polyurethane foams. These are used by various end-use industries such as transportation, construction, furniture, and packaging. Whereas Polyester polyols have high tensile strength and shock absorption properties owing to which they are extensively used in vibration dampening applications. Both polyether and polyester polyols are used in polyurethane, urethane, and polyisocyanurate applications. Increasing demand for PU-based foams and coatings, adhesives, sealants, and elastomers (C.A.S.E) from various end-use industries such as automotive, textile, insulation, packaging, electrical and electronics is projected to boost industry growth over the forecast period.

Rising concerns about environmental pollution and volatility in raw material prices led to an interest in using sustainable resources to replace petroleum-based polyols that is why key manufacturers have been investigating bio-based polyols to reduce dependence on conventional petrochemical-derived polyols.

Some of the prominent players of Global Polyl Market are Covestro, BASF group, The Dow Chemical Company, Shell, Eastman Chemical Corporation, Huntsman, DIC Corporation Woodbridge Foam Corporation, and RTP Company, among others.

APAC region is a leading the polyol market owing to the rapid growth in building and construction, automotive and medical sectors fundamentally. India and China are likely to emerge as substantial demand drivers in the global construction and automotive market. Thus, polyol manufacturers and suppliers are increasingly focusing on this region whereas, Latin America is emerging as the second fastest-growing market for polyols after the APAC region.

Which type of polyurethane foam is estimated to the largest application of polyols?

The flexible polyurethane foam segment is estimated to be the largest consumer of polyols in the last few years. It is used in several products such as carpet cushion, furniture, transportations, packaging, bedding, fibers and textiles. The growth of the construction and automotive industries is expected to drive the demand for flexible polyurethane foam. Hence, the increasing demand for flexible polyurethane foam is expected to drive the polyols market during the forecast period.

Which segment is estimated to lead the overall polyols market during the forecast period?

The polyether polyols segment is the leading segment in the overall polyols market. It is used as a raw material in the manufacturing of polyurethane foams which has a wide range of utilization majorly in manufacturing furniture, carpets, vehicles’ interior, car seats, and others. The increasing demand for these products due to the high growth of the construction and automotive industries in the developing countries of APAC, South America, and the Middle East & Africa is expected to drive the market for polyols.

What are the alternatives to petroleum-based commercial polyols?

The most common sustainable bio-based materials as an alternative to petroleum-based commercial polyols are vegetable oils, polysaccharides, cellulose, lignocellulose, and starch. Among them, vegetable oils have attracted considerable attention as an alternative to petroleum-based commercial polyols because of their abundance, price competitiveness, low toxicity, inherent biodegradability, and ease of extraction from bio-renewable resources such as castor, soybean, canola seeds, sunflower, grapeseed, palm, and others. Vegetable oils consist of a triglyceride structure derived from glycerol and three fatty acids.


Polyol market is expected to emerge as one of the fastest-growing segments over the forecast period as it majorly involves in various sectors including building and construction, apparel and footwear, automotive, packaging, furnishing, appliances, marine, medical, and electronics, etc., because of their excellent chemical, physical and mechanical properties, low cost, and high durability. APAC is estimated to witness a rapid growth in the polyol market during the forecast period. The growing construction, automotive, and electronic and electrical industries in the region, owing to growing consumer spending and increasing income levels, is expected to boost the demand for polyols.

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